Birth Control Myths By Urmila Devi Dasi

Proponents of contraception claim it solves many social problems. Are they right? Thirteen-year-old Jenny broke the silence. “Rhoda, I was a birth-control baby.” “Birth-control baby? I never heard of that.” “The birth control my mother and father used didn’t work, and the result was me.” “You mean you weren’t wanted.” Jenny didn’t answer. She hunched the covers over her shoulders. Rhoda leaned across the beds to touch Jenny’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said such a stupid thing.” Jenny lay still for a long time. Her thoughts drifted to her family….

“Rhoda,” she said softly after a while. “Rhoda, you were right, anyway. I’m the family accident.” Rhoda was sleeping already. Surprised at what [Rhoda] had said, and yet, feeling as if she’d always known it, [Jenny] understood now the plea that was always in her mother’s eyes when her mother looked at her….

[Jenny] closed her own eyes and went to sleep, too. —A Figure of Speech, by Norma Fox Mazer, p. 44 ABUSED, UNLOVED, unwanted, neglected children are an image of pain that tugs at the heart of any caring person. And what is modern technology’s answer? Birth control. Politicians, scientists, educators, and even religious leaders advise contraception—and its commander in reserve, abortion—as the answer to many social and economic woes. Yet when we examine the problems that contraception and abortion aim to solve and the benefits they are supposed to give, we may be surprised to see how they fall short. In ancient history, the saint Prahlada taught that a materialistic solution is worse than the original problem. Birth control exemplifies this principle. Let’s consider the reputed benefits of birth control and abortion: no more births of unwanted children, all children raised in a stable home and nurtured with affection, more freedom and respect for women, better health for women, fewer financial burdens for families, and less of a population burden on the planet. No more unwanted children? The prime objective of birth control and abortion is to eliminate unwanted children. Despite the increase of birth control and abortion worldwide, however, evidence shows that the problem of unwanted children has worsened the more the “solution” has been applied. In the essay Right Reason, William F. Buckley, Jr., writes, “The general availability of birth control information has caused a rise in illegitimacy.”

In Sweden, for example, the percentage of children born out of wedlock has risen steadily and today stands at 52%. In the United States, from 1950 to 1980 the annual rate of illegitimate births increased by 450%. One might imagine that with birth control and abortion easily available, all children, or nearly all, would be born to a married couple who want a child. But that’s not the case. The number of unwanted children is on the rise. A major cause is teenage promiscuity, and 81% of physicians surveyed agree that the availability of contraceptives has led to increased promiscuity among teens. (A. Pietropinto, “A Survey on Contraceptive Analysis,” Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, May 1987, p. 147) Teenagers who have had birth control education have a 50% higher sexual activity rate than teens who have not. (Louis Harris and Associates, “American Teens Speak: Sex, Myths, TV and Birth Control,” Harris and Associates for Planned Parenthood of America, Inc., 1986, p. 53)

Coleen Mast, author of the Sex Respect curriculum, compares teaching about contraceptives to teaching how to light fires “safely” in garbage cans. Such an education would no doubt increase the number of house fires. By offering some limited protection against the consequence of pregnancy, contraceptives encourage illicit sex. But contraceptives don’t solve problems of poverty, illiteracy, drug use, and uncontrolled sexual desire—all of which contribute to illegitimate births. In fact, people may feel that simply by using some pill or device, they can avoid becoming responsible adults capable of moral choice.

All Children Raised With Stability and Love?

The growing acceptance and use of birth control and abortion has also led to an increase in divorce, abandonment, child neglect, and child abuse. Half of all children in America will grow up without one parent, usually the father, because of illegitimacy or divorce. More than one million children a year live through divorce. Again in America, from 1986 to 1993 the number of abused and neglected children nearly doubled, and the numbers of children seriously injured or endangered from abuse both quadrupled. Having the right to “plan” one’s children through unnatural means may lead to family instability and child abuse; it certainly has not solved these problems. If we ask, “Why are so many children today not raised with love in a stable home?” and “Why do people use birth control?” the answers will be practically the same: the parents think sex is for pleasure only, not for reproduction. Why, then, take much care with children who come accidentally? And “accidental” children will come. Women who use contraceptives with a high rate of compliance still have a 10-13% pregnancy rate. (Family Planning Perspective, Sept./Oct. 1980, p. 236)

Contraceptive use reveals a selfish attitude: one wants enjoyment without any responsibility other than giving pleasure in return. Some may argue that a married couple may be “responsible” in their contraceptive use and still care for the children they plan for. But isn’t that like a company employee who regularly steals from the business yet claims to be honest with the other employees? Perhaps some people can practice “selective love,” but they remind us of an unusual creature—the scorpion mouse, which kills and eats scorpions, being immune to the poison. It also eats other mice, even other scorpion mice. But scorpion mice are some of the most caring parents in the animal kingdom, mourning long if one of their babies becomes a meal for an owl. Such “love” is a kind of extended selfishness, rather than selfless giving for the welfare of others. If the motive for our “love” is selfish, we will act without concern for our formerly lovable person if our desires appear to be better fulfilled by not loving.

Those who try to prevent pregnancy—through surgery, devices, chemicals, or unnatural sexual practices—develop a mentality of seeing their body as meant for their own purposes, rather than seeing both their body and the bodies of their children as gifts from God to be engaged in His service. The contraceptive users so much despise Krishna’s plan for the human body that they alter its natural function. They come to hate the responsibilities integral to their own bodies. When those responsibilities take the form of children, they may resent the children as well. Contraceptive use means trying to outwit Krishna, to take what one wants while short-circuiting and sabotaging the system. That is the mentality of a thief. Shrila Prabhupada often said that Krishna can be the greatest cheater. We may try to cheat Him, but in the end we will find ourselves cheated of genuine spiritual life and happiness, as the cheating employee will find that his friends don’t trust him and his boss fires him.

One may further argue that abuse, neglect, divorce, instability, and so on, exist, if to a lesser extent, among those who do not artificially avoid having children. Clearly, simply having children as nature intended is not enough to insure genuine love for them. Yes, without spiritual realization, our loving relationships will be more or less selfish. But the mentality of the contraceptive user is so opposed to the Lord’s plan that spiritual life, with its true love and selflessness, has no chance to develop. And a life that fully respects the link between sex and reproduction is part of a foundation upon which one can exhibit real love.

More Freedom and Respect for Women?

Because of widespread contraceptive use, women have increasingly become exploited slaves of irresponsible men. Formerly, a woman who conceived a child outside marriage had choices. She could marry the child’s father, raise the child alone, or give the child to an adoptive couple. If she wanted to marry the child’s father, her parents and community would put moral and social pressure on him. Now boyfriends, parents, and even husbands often pressure women to avoid or kill their own children. The thinking is, “This woman entered the relationship with a stated or implied agreement that children weren’t included. Why should the man be obligated now that a child has come by accident?”

Mary Pride, a leading advocate of the return to family values, writes, “Our society has been separating sex from the responsibilities and joys of having children for over thirty years…. Wives, who used to be regarded primarily as mothers and therefore sacred, are now seen as fancy vessels for men to relieve their sexual frustrations. Look at the ads in magazines, stores, TV, and billboards. Is this a noble picture of women, for their bodies to be used to sell everything from jeans to toothpaste?” (The Way Home, p. 30)

Women who rely on contraception and abortion may feel unfettered to pursue their own desires and careers, but is that real freedom? Real freedom comes in loving and serving God. Having children, even many children, doesn’t interfere with that. Besides, a woman who rejects contraception is expressing her freedom to control her sexual urges. By using contraception and abortion, others show they are hopeless slaves of lust and selfish bodily urges.

Better Health for Women?

We’re told it’s dangerous for women to have “too many” children, or to have children later in their childbearing years. Actually, having and nursing children prevents many of the health problems of modern women. For example, a woman who breast feeds for a total of at least seven years has nearly a zero percent chance of breast cancer at any time in her life. Most women who get various cancers of the reproductive system have had no or few babies. Conversely, many medical problems come directly from contraception. And abortion is not only very risky physically, but often brings the mother lifelong psychological problems. Of course, as with anything in this world, pregnancy and childbirth include risks. The risks, however, need not deter us from doing what is best for us and most pleasing to God. Those devoted to illicit sexual life are willing to sacrifice their money, health, and reputation to maintain their way of life. Even the fear of AIDS doesn’t discourage them. Can we not be at least as willing to sacrifice for the right cause?

Fewer Financial Burdens for Families?

It is common in modern society to think of children as a problem rather than a blessing. And today, children may indeed be financial burdens, especially if they’re extravagant consumers. On the other hand, many parents find that their children are a blessing and enrich their lives in many ways, even economically. Despite their freedom from the financial burden of children, childless couples face financial burdens nonetheless, because their desires induce them to work hard for money. Instead of spending money on educating and training their children, they spend for an extra car, a vacation home, a large-screen TV, and so on. Do these acquisitions bring more joy and fewer burdens than children would? Which life inspires one to be a better person? Certainly having children costs money, time, and effort. But, again, life is full of sacrifice and responsibility. A man who works hard so he can raise children dedicated to Lord Krishna is blessed with spiritual growth and satisfaction.

Less of a Population Burden on the Planet?

Many people will argue that without birth control, families will have a dozen or more children. Yet in societies where birth control isn’t practiced, the average number of children per family is six. Six children per family may seem too many for the earth, but the entire present world population could fit in France or in the state of Texas, with 1,500 square feet per person. We could feed ten times the present population on an American-style diet, and thirty times the population on a Japanese-style diet. (Colin Clark, Oxford University) All the world’s scriptures urge us to have many children, and describe children as a blessing. The only burden on the earth mentioned in the Vedic scriptures is that of a large population of sinful people who live lives of crime and deceit. The Lord, Sri Krishna, is unlimitedly wealthy and can easily provide adequately for all His obedient children. Harmful Side Effects Not only does birth control not solve the problems for which it claims to be the solution, but it has harmful side effects as well.

Homosexuality: Contraception may lead to increased homosexuality. If the purpose of sex doesn’t include children, then why not relations between two women or two men? Why not any type of unnatural relations? (note: The GVT does not promote homophobia, or gay basing. While ISKCON takes a rather conservative position about homosexuality like most religions, the GVT supports the idea that everyone must be treated with compassion and respect. Within and out of ISKCON you will find the whole spectrum of opinions regarding homosexuality. I have received a number of emails complaining about this article’s statements here so I have added this disclaimer. The GVT has not formulated an official view regarding homosexuality. The web servant and his wife are on the more liberal end of the debate, while others differ. Karnamrita )

Abortion: Acceptance of birth control leads to acceptance of abortion. Fifty percent of women who have had abortions say they were using birth control and it failed. Abortion is simply a more extreme way of saying that one’s personal needs, desires, status, and so on, are more desirable than the birth of a child. And being a form of child abuse (torturing and killing an unborn child), abortion leads to abuse of children in general. Why not hurt or kill a child who interferes with my life? People may claim that an unborn child is not yet human, but is an acorn seedling not simply an immature oak? The fetus is growing because the soul is present from conception. In any case, all life is sacred, not just life outside the womb, and not just human life.

Illicit sex: Immoral sexual relationships increase when contraception and abortion are available. People feel that with control over pregnancy, they need not consider commitment or the criticism of society. And because birth control promotes a mentality of separating sexual pleasure from procreation, people begin to feel that relationships based only on physical pleasure are not only morally acceptable, but natural.

Loss of respect and love for God: The spiritual harm of birth control is its most damaging—to individuals and society. The contraceptive user doesn’t respect Krishna’s design and plan. How can I love God if I don’t even respect Him? Rather, I think I would be a better God and am ready to redesign the world according to my vision. The mentality of envying Krishna’s supremacy and control is the root of material consciousness.

The Spiritual Solution All the arguments for the benefits of contraception presume that people cannot control their sexual appetites. We expect adults to control their appetites for food, so why not for sex? Of course, modern society doesn’t expect much self-control in eating, either. The artificial sex created when using contraceptives has its parallel in the artificial foods that have taste but no calories or nutrition. Sterilization has its parallel in stomach stapling. Krishna’s devotees know that mastery over our bodies, senses, and minds is both desirable and possible. Those who dedicate their lives to worshiping and pleasing Lord Krishna know that real pleasure comes from serving His plan, including His plan for the human body. They don’t try to separate physical pleasure from the whole of the reproductive function. In fact, those completely serious about spiritual perfection in this lifetime either live as unmarried celibates or, in marriage, restrict sexual union to the time when the wife is most likely to conceive. Before conception, the husband and wife meditate on the Lord and chant His holy names to purify themselves of selfish desire so as to offer the procreative act as a sacrifice to Him. Krishna says that He is present in such a union, and the couple therefore feels not only bodily pleasure but also spiritual bliss. They don’t feel a burden in raising their children to love Krishna; rather they take it as great happiness.

For people in general, a return to a life where children can assist their parents with running the household and earning the livelihood would greatly contribute toward the vision of children as a blessing rather than a burden. Spiritually, when children are raised to grow in love of God they are a great blessing to their families and society in all respects. The unlimitedly wealthy Lord will surely provide for those who wish to raise such children. Society must also return to the vision that this entire creation, including one’s own body, operates according to the plan of an unlimitedly intelligent and caring Supreme Being. We only hurt ourselves when we try to circumvent or obstruct that plan, even when dealing with our body, which we can’t truly claim to be our own.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of ISKCON Desire Tree | IDT to add comments!

Join ISKCON Desire Tree | IDT


  • Hare Krishna Urmila Mataji,
    Dandavat Pranams. Jai Srila Prabhupada.

    I read your response over and over and the more I read it, the more I feel torn up as to what to do.  This is because I know you are right, but still after prior bad experience I do not feel I can cope by allowing nature to take its course.

    I am totally blind. I work as a switchboard operator at a bank.  The position is tentative as they no longer require my services with automated answering services now in place.  Only Government legislation protecting employees with disabilities prevents them from asking me to leave, and they are always trying to find other loopholes instead to effect my resignation or dismissal.

    When we conceived our first son in 2009 we were determined we wanted natural delivery.  From the experience of other families we learnt that doctors usually don't have the patience to deliver naturally, and the financial benefits to them performing C-sections usually mean they would suggest it at the last minute, on the pretext of a birth complication.
    We went to different doctors and tried to judge their mood and their feeling about natural delivery.  We finally came across a doctor quite elderly in age, who seemed to be more favorable.  But, at the last minute he did just what we were warned: he claimed that dialation is taking too long and that he had to operate.  We had no way of knowing whether he was being truthful. I prayed hard and tried to protest to no avail.  Kalindi was inclined to trust his judgement, under stress herself at the time.

    Life was challenging after that delivery.  Being blind I tried my best to help manage the home.  Eventually she recovered and, as it happened we were expecting our second son only 4 months later.  This time as it was so soon after the first cesarean, doctors were up front that natural delivery would be impossible.  We tried for a devotee helper in preparation.  Locally we could not find a devotee assistant willing to accept the little money I could afford to pay. We finally found a mataji from Nepal, for whom the puny salary would be offset by the exchange rate between the South African Rand and the Nepalese Rupee.
    She arrived a week before the birth of our second son, but only a month later she became home-sick and left, leaving us on our own to cope.
    Somehow we have coped thus far.  The children are now 7 and 6 years old,.  The schools are terrible with child pregnancies, drugs and low moral of teachers who are legislated against taking much action against unruly kids.  We came across Aruddha Mataji's home schooling advice on Iskcon Education and were inspired to follow a similar program, with Srimad Bhagavatam as the basis.  My wife has not completed high-school, but we are trying to educate the boys on our own. Your "Learn to Read" series have helped tremendously.  Still, it feels like an uncertain future and there's nothing left but to trust in the Bhagavatam and strength from Guru and Krishna.

    Our relationship has taken a strain as we try to avoid any level of intimacy, for fear of another pregnancy.  My wife is extremely fertile! Myself being rather easily agitated by mere embrace, despite chanting and following a Vaishnava lifestyle, we try to keep things free from leasurely time as we can.

    To say the least, after further remorseful situation and deep repentence, and although I had promised to never allow myself to avoid uniting with wife it was futile.  Only a matter of time before it might happen again.
    Then, a month would go by in distress.  Even if we do have another child, how many more can we afford to maintain properly?  This is my concern at the moment.  If we allow desire to flow, then the results will be impossible to bear, child after child.  I ask myself: With a wife as easily fertile as I have, and myself being quite full of desire, where to from here?

    Still, I read your statements with theoretical acceptance:
    "We think that we cannot do such-and-such thing because there are so many obstacles."
    "if we gain faith that such-and-such is necessary to serve the Lord, the resources and abilities will come."

    Surely you are correct, but from previous experience and trying to have that faith and the consequences we have practically faced, I find it difficult to flow with it.

    We have now recently began thinking and researching the option of vasectomy to lighten the impact.  So it was quite a heart-wrenching experience to come across your initial post on this subject, which further challenged our purpose, given we were already torn up about it from a Vaishnava perspective.

    You write: "Those who protect dharma will find dharma protecting them."  I'm understanding that the converse is also true.  If we go through with the vasectomy, we cannot expect Dharma to protect us.

    Anyway I'm just laying out my cards for your evaluation.

    The procedure is due for this Wednesday, pending payment which I should be furnishing tomorrow.  However I shall put this off until I hear from you again, Mataji.

    Your servant,

    Yamuna Jivana dasa

  • Dear Yamuna Jivana Dasa,

    Hare Krishna. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    Often, the world works very differently than we think it does. We think that we cannot do such-and-such thing because there are so many obstacles. We think that when those obstacles are removed then we can do that thing. The reality is, often, that if we gain faith that such-and-such is necessary to serve the Lord, the resources and abilities will come. There is a saying that those who protect dharma will find dharma protecting them. We might think--and our thoughts seem "obvious" by the external circumstances--that having marital sex without artificial birth control will result in harm for the woman, financial hardship, and a decrease in marital satisfaction. However, if it is, indeed, the plan of God who designed our bodies for husband and wife to produce children through their union, then won't that same God provide the means for us to be faithful? For example, it is possible to have a VBA2C with the right provider, and each child brings his or her own money karma along into the world. It is possible to raise children on far less money than the modern West tells us is necessary.

    If, despite a person's best efforts, he or she cannot make this leap of faith, then Srila Prabhupada's words may give solace:
    "an ordinary man with firm faith in the eternal injunctions of the Lord, even though unable to execute such orders, becomes liberated from the bondage of the law of karma. In the beginning of Krsna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness." (purport Bhagavad-gita 3.31)

    As to the particulars of what an individual should do, said individual should consult with his or her guru and mentors, as each situation is different.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Your servant, Urmila devi dasi
  • I really liked the following statement in the article: "In fact, people may feel that simply by using some pill or device, they can avoid becoming responsible adults capable of moral choice." This clearly defines what a responsible adult means. There is no point calling oneself responsible or an adult if one is neither aware of moral choices, nor capable of choosing.

  • Hare Krishna Mataji.
    Dandavat Pranams. Jai Srila Prabhupada.
    What about a devotee couple who are not financially secure enough to support having many children.  If the husband and wife decide to sleep separately to naturally avoid sexual activity to prevent more children after having say 2 children already, if both or one of them are not sufficiently spiritually advanced it could affect their marriage.  We have seen many divorce cases in ISKCON as a result of premature or artificial renunciation within marriage, or is this not the case in your experience?

    In our case we have two children, and are home schooling them with Bhagavatam as the basis.  We are giving them as much Krishna Consciousness, personal attention, and material care as our situation can afford.  Having more children will affect our ability to cope with taking on even the education of our existing children.  The husband having a physical disability does not help the situation either.  Yes there are many super-mums who have coped in home schooling in ISKCON, such as yourself and Aruddha Mataji, but there are those who do not have the strength and vigour - are we not all different in our capacity?

    Yet, sometimes laying in bed together as husband and wife often may arouse tendency to embrace and thus lead to union under the spell of desire. Then, a month goes by in intense distress for us both, being unsure what would happen.  As the wife has already been forced into c-section deliveries both times and with existing children to take care of we cannot afford the procedure again without having any extended devotee family support - this besides the financial implications all round.

    Given all of the above, would, say, a vasectomy really be inappropriate?  If the couple sincerely do not plan to use steralization as a means for unrestricted enjoyment, but to help with the occasional fall down as could naturally arise in marriage?  Would not this be better than abortion for example where the couple simply cannot see themselves affording an unplanned pregnancy?

    In Vedic age the social structures were so designed with families living in communal structures: the men and women in an extended family living in separate quarters until a couple chose to have a child. Today not only do we not have such a social structure to help, but the influences of this age and our former unrestricted habits during upbringing, our deeper conditioning from the past, together all this seems to make things impossible in terms of complete abstenance in marriage after a specific number of children are conceived.

    Your thoughts will be appreciated.
    Your servant
    Yamuna Jivana dasa

This reply was deleted.