Do we need to rethink the Pill?

103941Do we need to rethink the Pill?
Presented by Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke at the ISCAST Vic Intensive 2010


Denise Cooper-Clarke is a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. She has a special interest in professional ethics and the ethics of virtue. She is a voluntary researcher with ETHOS (Evangelical Alliance Centre for Christianity and Society), an adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne. She is also chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality, and chair of the Ethics Committee of the Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship of Australia. 


Protestant attitudes to the morality of contraception were significantly shaped by the Lambeth conference of 1930 and by the writings of Karl Barth. But this was decades before the advent of the hormonal contraceptive pill. Recently some Protestant ethicists have begun to question the morality of modern low dosage contraceptives, including the combined Pill and the Progestogen only pill (or mini pill), because of uncertainty about their mechanism of action.  Are they really contraceptive? Or do they cause a very early abortion? Two questions need to be resolved. First, the scientific question: what is the mechanism of action of these formulations? Do they prevent ovulation? Do they have an effect on cervical mucus and so prevent the transport of sperm? If so, they prevent fertilisation and are undoubtedly contraceptive.  But what if at least sometimes their effect is through preventing the fertilized ovum from implanting in the lining of the uterus? There is some uncertainty about this. 

But if and when we can resolve the first question or even if we can’t, the more important question is the philosophical or ethical one: What is conception? Two rather than one events have to take place before a woman has conceived or is pregnant. Fertilisation is the first, but then the fertilised ovum must implant into the lining of the uterus (endometrium).  For some, conception equals fertilisation, and any interference beyond that point is like an abortion. For others, though, implantation marks conception, and interference between fertilisation and that point is still contraception, not early abortion. Actually it is better to call this effect contragestive. So where is the line between contraception and abortion, and given the heat in the abortion debate, why don’t conservative evangelicals seem to care? 

 Download pdf - Presentation Notes



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