I had so many questions about contraception and reproductive technologies. I have Christian friends who use the Pill and others who are deadset against it. Other Christian friends have used IVF to conceive their children and some of their fellow believers have criticised them for it.
Is there a right and wrong in these matters?
The author of this book, Dr Megan Best, is a Sydney-based doctor and bioethicist. She has been involved in developing legislation, at both state and federal levels, to regulate the treatment of unborn babies. She is both a Christian and a doctor. She is not some random crank on the internet whose opinion gets shared rapidly on Facebook.
The book is long and it looks daunting, like a medical textbook. But it isn't. There are some bits that went a bit above my head but, on the whole, it is a book for the average layperson. I am by no way sciency, but I could understand it.
I loved the way she comes out and says it straight...'this is unethical for Christians'. In the bamboozling world of health choices, I wanted to be told what to do by someone in the know. She gives you all the information and then lets you know her opinion.
I came away from this book feeling confident that it IS ok for Christians to use the Pill. Last year, I came to the conclusion that using the Pill was unethical because I thought it didn't necessarily prevent conception, but thinned the lining of the uterus so an embryo could not implant. Megan rejects the idea that the first two mechanisms (the prevention of ovulation and the thickening of the cervical mucus so sperm can't through) could both fail and the third mechanism (the thinning of the uterine lining) could succeed. If a woman DID ovulate, then there would be a hormonal surge and the uterine lining would thicken. (See Appendix I: Does the Oral Contraceptive Pill Cause Abortions?)
I also came away with a much clearer picture of what IVF entails - an area of which I had previously been quite ignorant about. Megan is quite clear that IVF in itself (the fertilising of an egg in a dish and then inserting into the woman's uterus with the hope it will implant) is NOT wrong. Unfortunately the industry itself will always try to sway Christian couples who wish to use IVF in accordance with Christian ethics. She raises a lot of questions that are important for couples to hear before they use IVF. So often we just encourage couples struggling with infertility to use IVF because we are devastated that they cannot have a child. But we need to consider the following issues I would never have thought of if we were to use IVF:
- Couples will always be encouraged to create as many embryos as possible because retrieving eggs from the woman is not a nice procedure at all. This is understandable (why would anyone want to undergo this more than they have to? Plus it is expensive and dangerous if done too many times). But the problem with creating lots of embryos is what are the couple to do with them when they decide their family is complete? What if they end up with two children and decide they don't want any more, yet have four frozen embryos. Many couples just discard them (let them die), but this is unethical for Christians. They could donate the embryos to other couples, but this is like giving up your child for adoption. Could you do it knowing your child is out there somewhere with another family?
- Megan thinks there is nothing wrong with freezing embryos in itself, but a number of possible dilemmas could arise. What if the couple divorce? Or one or both die? What happens to the embryos? Since Christians believe that life begins at conception and the embryos are therefore people, are they entitled to a share in their parents' estate?
- Megan states that she thinks surrogacy and egg and sperm donation is unwise. It goes against God's design for marriage (one man and one woman) by introducing a third party to the baby-making process. Could a wife watch another woman pregnant with her husband's baby, or a husband watch his wife pregnant with another man's baby without feeling jealous? What impact will that have on their marriage?
You won't regret reading this book.
You can order this book from the Matthias Media Australian online store here.
Or the US store here.