Because we can - should we? A wise society asks that question of every new technology. That is the question the Weld County commissioners have chosen to grapple with in their decision not to fund emergency contraception in county health clinics.
After intercourse, sperm can unite with an egg in the fallopian tube within hours. If that union occurs, an amazing process then begins by which chromosomes from the father and mother are joined together and a new cell is formed. This living cell contains its own complete set of chromosomes different from father or mother. These will determine gender, eye color, temperament and all the many characteristics that will make this individual unique. This is not a potential human being - it is a human being with potential. This is exactly what a young human is supposed to look like on its first day of life. Now, this cell divides and multiplies and begins a six day journey which will end in nestling into the wall of its mother's womb. Here this new life will grow for 9 months until it is time to make its next journey - birth.
Emergency contraception works by blocking the surge of hormones which stimulate ovulation (the extrusion of an egg from the woman's ovary). If ovulation is prevented, pregnancy can be avoided. What is less clear, however, is what happens if the medication is taken after that hormone surge or after ovulation has already occurred. Scientists have come to differing conclusions about this and serious moral concerns have been raised about whether, in some cases, emergency contraception might lead to the loss of a fertilized egg - a life. This moral concern lies at the heart of the Weld commissioners' considerations.
The idea of emergency contraception leads us to look at a much larger and more important issue. The nature of the sexual act is twofold: 1) to form a bond that will help unite a husband and wife together and 2) to beget life. The bond helps create the stable environment so necessary to welcome new life. When modern society embraced the technology of contraception, the sexual act was redefined in a radical and fundamental way. This technology designed to prevent pregnancy allowed for sex without consequences - no babies, no commitment. This redefinition of the sexual act has produced far reaching and painful effects in our culture.
Sex without consequences demands the availability of abortion. The emergence of "the pill" in the 1960's led to a call for the legalization of abortion within a decade. January 22nd marked the fortieth anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. In those 40 years, over 50,000,000 abortions have been performed in America.
For nearly 250 years in our country, until slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, it was legal for a white man to own a black man - legal, but not moral. The black man was seen as sub-human or not human at all. We look back at those times and wonder how their thinking ever could have been so misguided. A future generation will look back on this era and wonder the same thing about us.
For such a future time to come to pass it will require something far more difficult than the overturning of legalized abortion - it will require a change of the human heart. It will mean recapturing the true meaning of sexual intimacy and restoring it to its proper place within marriage alone. So difficult - but the possibility awakens in us great hope.
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