What Does Contraception Have to Do with Abortion? Evangelicals v. Augustine and Roe v. Wade -- By: Kenneth Magnuson

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 07:2 (Summer 2003)
Article: What Does Contraception Have to Do with Abortion? Evangelicals v. Augustine and Roe v. Wade
Author: Kenneth Magnuson

What Does Contraception Have to Do with Abortion?
Evangelicals v. Augustine and Roe v. Wade1

Kenneth Magnuson

Kenneth Magnuson is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics and Theology from the University of Cambridge, England. Dr. Magnuson also served as a professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary prior to his appointment at Southern.

Abortion is wrong because it is the killing of an innocent human being. Such is the unambiguous basis of the opposition of many evangelical Christians and other prolife advocates to abortion. Every abortion puts an end to a human life, and is therefore unjustifiable, unless perhaps the mother’s life is itself threatened. The issue is clear, and as a result, the moral stance of evangelicals on abortion is certain.

The same cannot be said about the issue of contraception. It is evident that there is no well-defined evangelical position on contraception, at least as a moral issue in and of itself. Indeed, while abortion is viewed as a crucial moral issue, many would question whether contraception is a moral issue at all. Rather, it is considered to be simply a matter of practical and personal consideration and choice.

Why consider the relatively insignificant issue of contraception in a journal issue dedicated to the weighty issue of abortion? Is there even any relation between the two issues? Evangelical Christians, it would seem (even those who question the acceptability of contraception), do not perceive any significant or essential connection between abortion and contraception. However, there are some “groups” who have, in fact, made a connection between the defense of contraception and the defense of abortion, or between the condemnation of contraception and the condemnation of abortion. The primary connection that is made between the two issues relates abortion and contraception to one another as forms of birth control, and then they are together either accepted as good or condemned as morally wrong.

The purpose of this article is to examine the possible connection between abortion and contraception, and to suggest how evangelicals might respond to claims that there indeed is a moral relation between these two issues. I will argue that while evangelicals are right to distinguish or “disconnect” abortion and contraception from one another in one respect, there is nevertheless a sense in which there is an important connection that should not be disregarded. Indeed, that connection ought to inform our perspective on contraception and on sexual morality in general. In order to see both how we may distingu...

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