Why Evangelical Christians Ignore the Science Behind Birth Control July 9, 2014

Why Evangelical Christians Ignore the Science Behind Birth Control

After the ruling on Hobby Lobby came down, the biggest question in the minds of those outside of the Christian Right may have been: Why is the science behind birth control irrelevant to the Christians involved in this case?

A quick Google search reveals that the objected-to forms of birth control don’t cause abortions, but the fearful visceral response from Hobby Lobby supporters was entirely driven by the idea that these contraceptives cause early abortions.

The bewilderment from those who premise their reasoning on things other than Biblical inerrancy is profound:

There is no evidence that Plan B, Ella, or the Mirena cause abortion by any definition. The evidence that the ParaGard might affect implantation for a small percentage of women, thus leading to what some conservatives would call abortion, is thin. But we don’t have the information to discount it completely.

Is that a rational basis for refusing to pay for these contraceptives — and reducing the reach of a health care initiative that provides enormous benefits? Religious conservatives think so. And thanks to the Supreme Court, they will get their way.

What you may not realize is that the reasoning on this issue traces back to Christians’ essential assumptions about what the Bible is and is not.

Belief that the Bible is inerrant — and 30% of Americans agree with that statement — requires suspicion of scientific theories, fear of scientific unknowns, and the threadlike hope that relied-upon data might be wrong.

This flies in the face of how science works. But because they’re afraid of their faith unraveling if the literal six-day Creation account isn’t found to be 100% factual, they have no choice but to cling to the tiny chance that science is wrong. Probability has no value here.

Therefore, if there’s even a slight chance that a fertilized zygote will be expelled from the uterus while a female body is employing some form of birth control, it means there is a known risk of causing an abortion, and a baby’s death will be on your conscience if that happens.

Everything we know about how birth control lowers the rates of abortions, child poverty, food insecurity, and social safety net dependents is irrelevant because of the small chance those things would come at the expense of a potential child due to birth control.

Christian writer Rachel Marie Stone wrote about this at Faith Street:

… I get stuck when that conviction is taken from the personal realm — “I choose not to do this myself” — into the realm of policy — “I will take measures to make obtaining this method more difficult.” Here is why:

It results in too many deaths — not quiet cellular deaths, but the loud deaths of grown women and the whimpering deaths of children.

It seems very clear to me that if we put most methods of reversible birth control besides condoms and diaphragms off the table, ethically speaking, we exchange the very hypothetical failure of a blastocyst to implant for the definite reality of visible, screaming, bloody deaths of women and children worldwide.

According to data at USAID, “family planning could prevent up to 30 percent of the more than 287,000 maternal deaths that occur every year, by enabling women to delay their first pregnancy and space later pregnancies at the safest intervals. If all babies were born three years apart, the lives of 1.6 million children under the age of five would be saved every year.”

That doesn’t include the lives saved due to death from malnutrition in areas where population growth far outstrips the food supply.

As this reasoning goes, if you pay for the birth control, the blood is on your hands, too — you knew the risks but you disregarded them for the sake of convenience. Christians of all sorts value intellectual integrity (really), and this extended line of reasoning is their way of honoring that. The premise may be a million miles off, but it’s at least consistent to itself.

(Image via Shutterstock)


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