Saturday, June 25, 2011

OB Care and Trusting God

Once upon a time, it was not uncommon for women to die from pregnancy or childbirth. Once upon a time, babies with birth defects died within their first year of life. Once upon a time, people died from infection.

Today we have drugs and bed-rest that can stop early labor. We have surgeries to save mothers whose lives are in danger during childbirth. Today we have surgeries that can repair birth defects that used to be fatal. Today we have antibiotics that can fend off otherwise deadly infection.

Once upon a time, when it was more routine for women and children to die, God was still there, still protecting, still guarding. When their last hour came, God graciously took them from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven. Furthermore, God certainly gave daily bread to their families even after mothers died. God did not abandon them, even when temporal life was ended prematurely.

Today doctors can prevent many of these deaths and defects. Doesn't God do this healing work through the doctors, through c-sections, through pitocin, through transplants, through transfusions, through penicillin? Do these medical procedures mean we're "playing God"? Jehovah's Witnesses might say so, but Christians don't.

So today we have women who have survived pregnancy and childbirth with scars. Decades ago, without medical intervention, such women would have perished. But today they live. Today we have parents caring for special-needs kids who, decades ago, would have perished. But today they live, and the parents rejoice.

Without medical intervention, these families would have been broken by death. It seems odd to me that there are Christians who receive some kinds of medical care with thanksgiving, but reject another type of medical care [that is, non-abortifacient contraceptives]. Why do we consider it "trusting God" when doctors do surgery to prevent imminent death, but think it's "not trusting God" to prevent a pregnancy that is quite likely to result in grave danger to mother and child?


  1. Huh, I thought you have had some responses to this one. As one who would have died twice without medical intervention I am very thankful to have had it available for sparing my life and the lives of my two children...actually three because the third child wouldn't be here either if I died in the second pregnancy. We were given four children by God...and I would have welcomed a few more. But it was not to be...not with this sinful body filled with debilitating endometriosis. It took an ovary and it was out of was in my bowel and growing fast and furious. I had to go on birth control to control the endo...and it worked! But I also decided to have my remaining tube tied...this body was not up to bearing anymore children. hindsight I am glad that I did since there is not a common consensus on the exact way the pill works. We did not choose husband and I LOVE having a growing family...but now that has to be through marriage and grand babies...and foster children that impact your heart forever. God has given many good gifts...and, while it is a difficult issue to be sure, when birth control is used for preservation of can be a blessing given by God.

  2. Dear Susan-
    to answer your question, in a non life threatening case, unlike our dear sister above, contraception is one of the few "medicines" that attempts to stop a normal bodily function that God has given to us. Can you think of another prescription that stops a healthy, normal functioning organs from doing what God designed them to do? Folks are against it's use as "medical care" because "medical care" should rightly be used to restore and heal the body to the things God designed, not hinder the body away from God's good design and uses for which He has given commands and promises.

    God bless you dear sister and all of us, like Laura, who struggle with the weakness of our mortal nature.

  3. Pastor Ball, you asked if there's another prescription that stops normal, healthy organs from doing what they were designed to do. Yes. Chemotherapy does that. But in spite of the harm it causes, it's used anyway in an attempt to solve a problem in the body.

    ALL medicines and procedures do bad things to the body. Some of them do very little harm, and some have much greater risks. Vaccines, surgery, aspirin, super-duty antibiotics -- ALL medicine does harm to the body. The thing to determine is when the medical care does greater good than it does harm. Sometimes that's a snap to determine; sometimes it's not.

    When there is danger for a family, danger which may not be apparent to outsiders, then the family, the doctor, and the pastor need to determine in the freedom of the gospel which path to take.

  4. I absolutely agree with you... I also think that if people use birth control for financial reasons that it is also something that they should be allowed to decide in the freedom of the gospel. -Heidi

  5. Dear Susan,

    I don't find myself ultimately convinced by the contraception stops normal bodily functioning arguments, so I can see why you wouldn't be either. For one thing, our bodies have a whole host of interconnected processes and we often interfere with one, to promote healing in another as you note. One thing the RCC and Lutheran arguments against contraception always allow for is something like taking the pill to solve a reproductive system problem. This would be something like the endometriosis (mentioned above), or one of my friends whose body insisted on a 2 week cycle. She was just loosing a lot of blood. In these cases a tragic side effect of the pill is the continued inability to get pregnant, but the pill is taken to solve a problem. Traditionally, conception of human life is not considered a problem.

    The question you ask is: can a couple accept voluntary sterilization (temporary or permanent) as a tragic side effect of a weak body or bad finances? I don't think that our freedom extends that far because our freedom in the gospel is not permission to do anything we have a good reason for, but rather a freedom to devote our lives totally to God. One of the ways we devote our lives totally to God is when a husband and wife give themselves to each other totally within marriage. Barrier methods of birth control place limits on that totality; sterilization methods do the same thing, though in a less obvious way. Again, if you were forced to be sterilized because of an impending calamity (endometriosis and uterine cancer come to mind) that is taking the best medical way out of a bad situation. The same is a justification for an abortion when the baby is threatening the mother's life (ectopic pregnancy) but not when the mother's body is giving up because a baby is there (heart defect).

    But there are cases when, although a baby could not be considered a bad thing (because no new life is), it would not be prudent for this couple to seek one at this time. Sometimes the reason is financial, sometimes it is health, sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent. The sort of medical knowledge that you CAN (and I would contend OUGHT) to use, is fertility awareness. Ladies aren't fertile all the time. For a couple to restrain its expressions of physical total self gift to times when a pregnancy would be unlikely does neither disrespect to the act itself, nor does it maim (because sterilization is maiming) the woman's body to keep it from getting pregnant. Such decisions confess the truth to God and each other that they are open to children, if the Lord chooses to thwart their human plans, but not recklessly ignoring prudential considerations saying "oh well, God will provide."

    In Christ,

  6. I really like what Eleanor has to say here. One of the things that I have never quite gotten is how, even if one eschews the use of any sort of artificial contraception, barrier or otherwise, one can somehow turn off the brain to the cause of conception. We know what makes a baby. :-) And most women eventually develop a pretty good awareness of their cycle and when they are fertile and when they are less so. So even if there are no artificial means involved, there is room for a certain degree of involvement on the part of the married couple in the timing of a baby. Perhaps there are some that would say to use that knowledge at all is sinful--that if one is feeling like maybe it would be nice to wait a few more months before the next baby that he should not refrain but should do the opposite as an act of faith. I think that is unrealistic. We can't turn off our brains. And as Eleanor says, God can certainly thwart our human efforts if he so desires.