Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

The Plan C Pill: Be Fruitful and Multiply

pills

Does a popular brand of emergency contraception pill actually cause an abortion?  That depends on your worldview.  Birth control is in the news again.  So is abortion.  What the news fails to report is the depth of controversy surrounding these two related issues.

After last week, 15-year-old girls will be allowed to bike down to the local pharmacy and purchase Plan B, an over-the-counter pill described as an “emergency contraceptive.”  What could possibly be wrong with young girls using emergency contraception (aside from the obvious)?

Depending on your worldview, the Plan B pill might not be contraception at all.  It might cause an abortionOn naturalism, life is not sacred; it simply is.  But worldviews which hold life as sacred have more to consider in this debate.

When does human life become sacred?  At conception?  At 37 weeks?  After birth?  More specifically, when does it become worth protecting from harm?  These are important questions, but the most salient one to this discussion is:

  • When does a pregnancy begin?  

If there is no pregnancy, there can be no abortion.  But the definition of pregnancy came under attack after the abortion flood gates were opened after Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Historically, pregnancy has been understood to begin at conception, when the sperm fertilizes the egg.

In 2009, Christopher M. Gacek, J.D., Ph.D., Senior Fellow for Regulatory Affairs for the Family Research Council in Washington D.C. conducted a study of the four major medical dictionaries in use for the last 100 years.

His conclusion after carefully researching each edition of Dorland’s, Stedman’s, Taber’s, and Mosby’s dictionaries was that the scientific analysis of the belief that pregnancy begins at conception (fertilization)

“is not only reasonable but . . . the dominant worldview presented by the dictionaries and the historical usage they represent.”[i]

In other words:

  • The belief that pregnancy begins at implantation is the minority view  

Enter controversy.

The Plan B pill is “believed” to principally act by preventing ovulation and blocking fertilization.  “In addition,” describes the full product information from Plan B’s website, “it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium).”[ii]

If you believe a pregnancy begins at conception, Plan B’s status as an abortion pill depends on whether or not a fertilized egg was blocked from implantation.

To complicate things further, you will never know.  For some, ignorance is bliss.

One narrative on how to solve the world’s problem is to keep families small.  Small families lead to individual success.  This leads to economic development and solves the world’s problems (supposedly).  Plan A, then, must be to minimize pregnancies.  We have already discussed Plan B.

But Plan C uses another narrative: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28).  Watch Hans Rosling’s TED talk on “Religion and babies” and you’ll see why we won’t break the 10 billion population mark even if we tried (and Lord knows, I’ve tried).

If children truly are a gift, are they a gift we should ever consider returning?


[i] Christopher M. Gacek, Ph.D., “Conceiving ‘Pregnancy’ U.S. Medical Dictionaries and Their Definitions of ‘Conception’ and ‘Pregnancy,’” Insight publication, April 2009, 10, http://www.frc.org/insight/conceiving-pregnancy-us-medical-dictionaries-and-their-definitions-of-conception-and-pregnancy.

[ii] Teva Women’s Health, Inc., “Full Prescribing Information,” Plan-B One-Step, accessed May 5, 2013, http://planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf

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11 Replies

  1. Brian Miller

    Do we need a receipt for returning our kids? I’ve misplaced mine:)

  2. Yes, you need a receipt. Perhaps this is why they are not given! You will find encouragement in Psalm 127.

  3. Assuming you posted expecting some debate… So here it is.
    1) A potential child is not a child, just like a caterpillar is not a butterfly.
    2) In what other situation is a human being forced against his or her will to provide life support to another being? How is that ethical?
    3) “Life” does not = protection under the law. An ant is a form of life. It does not merit legal protection.
    4) Give the embryo/fetus rights and you are necessarily taking away the rights of the person whose body it is inhabiting. Why do the fetus’s rights take precedence over the woman’s? The fetus is a potential human life. The woman is an actual human life.
    5) If you want to have a conversation that includes people who have different religious beliefs than yours, you shouldn’t quote the Bible in your arguments. Kind of a dead end.
    6) Hope you’re fully supportive of government programs that help women care for those babies they will bear as they follow your advice of being fruitful and multiplying. Maternity leave, affordable quality healthcare, early childhood education programs, etc. Or do you only think women who meet specific marital status and economic conditions should be procreating? If this is the case you should say so.
    7) If you really want to look to history, do some research on the prevalence of infanticide throughout the ages. It was socially and ethically acceptable to go dump an undesired newborn in a river (or other method of ending its life) until very recently in human history. Thankfully, times change.
    8) Yes, duh, pregnancy begins at conception. So what? How is that the key question? Do you know the percentage of pregnancies that self-terminate? Up to 50% (the majority of these were not even known pregnancies). http://healthyliving.msn.com/pregnancy-parenting/advice/avoiding-repeat-miscarriages-1
    So Mother Nature herself (or God if you prefer) designed the fertilized egg to survive about 1/2 the time. It’s a coin toss. But God forbid a woman should have a say in which side the coin should land.

    1. Charlotte,
      Thank you for your comments. I’ll try to address each one of your issues sufficiently.

      First, the argument that the unborn are only potential persons is covered well in Stephen Schwarz’s book The Moral Question of Abortion .

      http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Question-Abortion-Stephen-Schwarz/dp/0829406239

      This is based on what is known as the “functioning-person” theory. We must recognize the distinction between being a person and functioning as a person. If a functioning person is defined by “consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, the capacity to communicate, and the presence of self-concepts,” then the unborn do not qualify.1 But neither does a dreamless sleeping adult. The unborn lack the present immediate capacity to function, but they do have the basic inherent capacity to function, as does the sleeping adult. Schwarz continues, “It is being a person that is crucial morally, not functioning as a person.”2 Schwarz summarizes, “What is potential about the child in the womb is not her being a person, but rather her functioning as a person. . . . The child in the womb is not, as the functioning-person theory maintains, a potential person, but rather a potentially functioning actual person.”3

      Regarding your life support example, let me use an analogy. Just as the unborn are dependent on their mothers’ body for life support, a six-month old is dependent on her mother’s care for life support. If the mother decides she no longer wants to provide the child with food, water, and protection, is it ethical to force the mother to continue that life support against her will?

      Next is the argument that “life” does not = protection under the law. That is true. Only human life is guaranteed protection under the 14th Amendment. Unborn human life not only merits, but has legal protection after 24 weeks in most states. This is based on when the fetus is assumed to be viable. The question becomes, is viability the appropriate discriminator?

      If the unborn are not potential person, but actual persons, then questions regarding competing rights are the same as between two adults. My dad taught me that the right to swing my fist ends at the tip of another person’s nose. A baby’s nose is fully formed by 24 weeks.

      When the Bible is quoted, the speaker is invoking an authoritative source of truth. The purpose of this blog is to encourage discussion about important cultural issues by examining worldviews. Christianity is one of many. I encourage readers to make their best case for their own.

      Obviously, people should be responsible with how many children they have. There are ways to be responsible without running into moral controversy.

      As far an historical infanticide, socially acceptable and morally acceptable are two different things. In the past, children were thrown into the river. Today, they are allegedly being thrown into toilets. Maybe times have not changed as much as we would like to believe.

      You are correct. “When does the pregnancy begin,” is not the key question. The key question is “when is human life worth protecting as a legal person in the ‘whole’ sense.” A self-terminating pregnancy causes no problems; the mother has not acted.

      When a coin is tossed, any action to rig the outcome is considered cheating. In this case, perhaps we should leave it up to mother nature (or God).

      Thank you for sharing and I hope this discussion will continue.
      -Jason

      1 Stephen Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990), 89.
      2 Ibid., 94.
      3 Ibid., 102-103.

  4. Have you read Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s essay on abortion? Stephen Schwartz may well have covered the personhood topic in his book, but he didn’t settle the argument. The debate continues; he is not the ultimate authority. Sagan and Druyan make a strong case for looking at brain waves, and by this criterion comatose patients do retain personhood as they retain unconscious brain functions. Fetuses start having “human” brain waves in the third trimester.
    If a mother no longer wants to care for her children, I would say it is not ethical to force her to do so as this would be jeopardizing the well-being and safety of the children. Children need to be raised and cared for by people who love them and want to care for them. I wish more mothers would turn their children over to relatives, friends, or the states rather than abuse them, or worse. Obviously, I wish all mothers wanted to and were capable of caring for their children. I dearly wish mothers had more support in our society.
    When the Bible is quoted, the speaker is evoking a document that is an authoritative source of truth only to certain people, namely Christians, and in particular fundamentalist Christians. To many others, the Bible is no such thing. In a discussion that affects public policy in a country in which there is separation of church and state, quoting the Bible simply doesn’t lead to fruitful discussion. I, as a non-Christian, respect your right to turn to the Bible as a source of moral authority and to live your life according to its principles and commandments, as long as they do not direct you to break the law of the land. But if I don’t view the Bible as a source of moral authority, the discussion either has to turn to religion or end completely. There is no adequate response to a Bible quote, because if you believe it to be God’s word, there is no argument possible. Logic, facts, reason, experience, science will not make a dent. The only thing I can respond with is to quote other passages in the Bible that I very much doubt you agree with, thereby calling into question the moral authority of that document. See Exodus 21:20-21, for example. But I’d be digressing into religion, which is not the main topic of this debate.
    People should be able to choose what they do with their own bodies, regardless of whether others find their choices controversial.
    The coin toss analogy is flawed, true. If a patient has a 50/50 chance of surviving, it is not ok to precipitate his death. But it is always ok to choose not to continue to provide life support against one’s will. If, for example, person A is found to be the only match for a kidney donation to person B who will die without the kidney transplant, is it ok to force person A to give up his kidney? Though we may all very much wish person A will choose to give his kidney, few of us would say it’s ok to physically force him to do so.
    If a child is thrown into a toilet, that is a crime. Again, embryos and fetuses are not children.
    I wonder if you think this woman should be prosecuted:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bei_Bei_Shuai

    1. Charlotte,
      You raise some very important questions. Does an ultimate authority exist? Is there a difference between crimes of commission (illegal abortion) and crimes of omission (failing to donate a kidney)? Great topics for future posts. -Jason

    2. Charlotte,
      I wanted to address one of the Commments you made in your last reply. You suggested that logic, facts, reason, experience, and science will fail to “make a dent” in the beliefs of someone with a Christian worldview. The same holds true for anyone who is not willing to follow the truth wherever it may lead.

      Someone with a precommittment to naturalism will never be “dented” by supernatural things, no matter how much logic, reason, and experience may suggest their existence. In the case of the Christian worldview, science is no enemy. Science has great explanatory power, but it must stay within its bounds. It cannot weigh in on the metaphysical claims which form the basis of many different worldviews. That realm belongs to the philosophers. Richard Dawkins can tell us how we behave on Earth, but not why we were put here (destiny). Carl Sagan can describe the cosmos, but not how it began (origins). Steven Hawking can claim that the universe can and will create itself from nothing, but he can’t explain why the quantum vaccum he theorizes is not “nothing.” What caused the quantum vaccum?

      Someone who loves logic will enjoy philosopher William Lane Craig’s book Reasonable Faith (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1433501155). Those who love reason will enjoy Dinesh D’Souza’a book What’s So Great About Christianity (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1414326017). Those who love the experiential component should read Ravi Zacharias’ book Deliver Us From Evil (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/084993950X). For those who love science, read Werner Gitt’s book In the Beginning was Information (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0890514615).

      Logic, reason, experience, and science may indeed fail to dent a Christian worldview–it just may have led to it. – Jason

  5. Jonathan Babbitt

    Throw into the mix, Public Law 108-212 – protecting “A member of the species homo sapiens, at ANY stage of development, who is carried in the womb,” excluding, “conduct relating to an abortion.” If the “life/potential life/fetus” is valued by the mother = worthy of protection under the law. If not, abort at will – or in certain states, prior to viability.
    (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ212/html/PLAW-108publ212.htm)

    If this rationale were to permeate our entire judicial system – never again would we forget to send flowers on Mother’s Day.

    1. Jonathan,
      Ordering my flowers now. -Jason

  6. Here’s an alternative to flowers (how I chose to honor my mother this Mother’s Day): http://www.womenforwomen.org/