The Not-So-Golden Anniversary of the Pill

This Mother’s Day marked the Golden Anniversary of the pill—the medical advancement that allows women to have sex without the potential consequence of becoming a mother. The irony is profound. Though there may be legitimate and beneficial uses for the pill, I believe that its impact on women, on motherhood, and on society has been anything but “golden.”

When I was working in rehab medicine in the early eighties, one of my patients was a 24-year old single woman who suffered a stroke from taking the pill, and as a result, was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. That was my first clue that the pill wasn’t as safe and wonderful as the pharmaceutical companies made it out to be. In the seventies and eighties, thousands of women died or were disabled after suffering blood clots or strokes related to the medication.

The pill contains synthetic hormones that override the normal hormonal functions of a woman’s body to prevent ovulation. This is not a natural state for any woman, and opponents warn that women who use the pill leave themselves susceptible to major medical problems that may not show up until later in life. Even though the levels of hormones in the pill have been reduced, the side effects of taking the pill are still complex and long lasting.

Many claim that the pill is responsible for serious long-term medical conditions such as infertility, cancers, strokes, and blood clots. Furthermore, women can experience symptoms like weight gain, breast engorgement and tenderness, bloating, mood swings, severe PMS, and headaches. A recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicates that the pill can lower a woman’s sexual desire, and lead to sexual dysfunction.

Just last month, about 800 Canadians filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the maker of several popular new-generation pills have put sales ahead of safety, and have caused young women to suffer complications ranging from blood clots and high blood pressure, to cardiac arrest and death. While the allegations haven’t been proven in court, the claims filed last month say that the birth control pills, Yaz and Yasmin, have caused blood clots, gallbladder problems, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, stroke and at least seven deaths in Canada and more than 50 in the United States. A class action suit in the US is pending. The law groups behind the class action argue that the Pharmaceutical Company concealed the adverse effects of its products from regulatory authorities and from the public and failed to warn customers of the medical risk of birth control pills.

The medical risk alone ought to have curbed society’s enthusiasm for the pill. But the fact is, the pill’s development was championed by women with a specific philosophical worldview. Margaret Sanger, for instance, raised large sums of money to underwrite the research. Sanger, an atheist, birth control activist, advocate of eugenics, and founder of Planned Parenthood, anticipated that the advent of the pill would enable the wholesale advancement of her agenda. And therein lays the rub. Medical hazards aside, the pill has supported the advancement of ideas, attitudes and behaviours that are markedly unbiblical. For example:

   1. The mindset that sex can be separated from marriage and children
   2. The mindset that sex is primarily about personal pleasure
   3. The thought that there ought to be no consequence to sex outside of marriage
   4. An increased tolerance & acceptance of immorality
   5. A decreased commitment to marriage and family
   6. An unbiblical attitude toward children (commodity or burden)
   7. A negative attitude toward motherhood
   8. A negation of the distinctions between male and female
   9. A devaluation of woman’s role in the home
  10. The attitude that marriage/family are of lesser priority & value than self/career
  11. The exaltation of self and devaluation of others (exalt individual over community)
  12. The illusion that we can control our own fertility
  13. The focus on personal rights rather than responsibility
  14. The mindset that women have the right and power to set their own course
  15. The mindset that humans determine what sex, marriage and gender are all about

The pill was not a benign medical advance. It was introduced to advance a particular worldview and philosophy. The approval of the birth-control pill in 1960 ushered in the sexual revolution, buttressed the feminist movement, changed the nature of the relationship between the sexes, and dramatically transformed the shape of society. And women, en masse, have swallowed it. The most recent government data indicates that more than eight in 10 American women, ages 15 to 44, have taken the pill at some point in their lives.

So how do you, as a Christian woman, decide whether you should take the birth control pill? First, it’s important that you ensure that your mindset toward sex, marriage, and children is not based on culture, but on the Word of God.  Do you value marriage and children as the Lord does?  Do you honor His design for sex and gender? Do you welcome children as a precious gift? Does your attitude toward womanhood and motherhood line up with His? Are you seeking God’s input and heart on the matter? Are you allowing the Lord to direct your life, or are you the one dictating the terms? Have you considered the option of bucking the trend and allowing the Lord to determine the number and timing of your children? Are you asking the Lord about how to approach family planning? Have you prayed about how many children He wants you to have? Have you examined whether your views are shaped by culture or by the Bible?

I don’t believe that we can make hard and fast rules about the use of birth control, but I do believe that regrettably, our mindset toward sex, marriage, children and motherhood are often more influenced by the world than the Word. Make sure that you ask yourself the hard questions. Wrestle with what the Bible teaches about the value of children and the meaning of sex . . . And examine the willingness of your heart to obey.

Second, do not be naive to the potential negative side effects of taking the pill. Don’t think that it couldn’t happen to you. Those women who suffered strokes, heart attacks, and who died didn’t think it would happen to them, either—nor did those who, several years down the road, find themselves struggling with infertility or frigidity. There is a definite risk involved with taking the pill. I advise women who want to use birth control to consider alternate methods to delay pregnancy, or alternate medical treatments for their conditions. Do some research and make sure you are well informed before making a decision.

Pharmaceutical companies, the medical community, and birth control advocates have promoted the pill as a safe, normal part of womanhood—the key to woman’s power and freedom. But in reviewing the risks and the cultural fall-out, I think that the pill has had an overall negative impact on women. This is one golden anniversary that I wouldn’t exactly call a happy one.

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About the Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and a distinguished professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She has published several books, Bible studies, and videos. At home in Alberta, Canada, Mary watches lots of sports! Her sons play ice hockey and her husband, Brent, is chaplain for the local professional football team. The Kassians enjoy biking, hiking, snorkeling, music, board games, mountains, campfires, and their family’s black lab, General Beau.

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