Last Friday I went through a three and a half hour operation called a vasovasostamy to reverse my vasectomy. Not surprisingly, I have had several friends ask me what my reasons were for the reversal. Their reasons for asking were very straight forward. First of all, I’m old – almost forty-one. We already have three beautiful boys, who are also old (sixteen, thirteen, and eleven) when you take into account what most people would consider proper spacing for children in a family. We are obviously “past that stage.” Also, what about the potential health complications, financial considerations, and inconvenience? If I’m honest, I have to admit that some of these issues were my very reasons for sterilization in the first place. They are natural questions, and I would like to answer them as reasonably as I am able; because quite frankly it was reason which first began to alter my convictions when it came to the issue of voluntary sterilization.
Some may be surprised to find that at it’s conception (pun intended 😉 ) my decision to get a reversal had it’s root in logic and not emotion. Let’s face it, I had already gone under the knife once, I had no desire to have my testicles cut on again! Both emotionally, and for all the reasons listed above, I was opposed to the idea. I didn’t experience a change of heart from studying scripture or listening to a sermon (growing up Protestant, I’m not sure that I could have found a preacher who would preach against it!). Instead, I was exposed to an argument against sterilization and found it to be imminently reasonable. Once my beliefs had changed; once I had changed my mind, then God was able to begin to work on my heart.
When I became Catholic, I found that the Catholic Church has very clear, very reasonable, teaching when it comes to artificial contraception and sterilization, and it was this teaching which helped me to first transform my way of thinking, and then properly form my conscience. My new convictions then allowed me to hear God speaking to me in a new way.
So what were my reasons for having a reversal? Let’s see if we can start with some common ground. Most of the people who have inquired into my reasons for the reversal would agree with me that there is God. For those who do believe in God, they would also agree that He created everything. To create is to design, and a design implies purpose. For instance, our bodies have systems which are designed to do something. This “something” which the bodily systems perform are their purpose, and science has labeled them accordingly for us.
The nervous system is made up of the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves. One of the most important systems in your body, the nervous system is your body’s control system. It sends, receives, and processes nerve impulses throughout the body. The respiratory system brings air into the body and removes carbon dioxide. It brings oxygenated blood to the body. The circulatory system is the body’s transport system. It is made up of a group of organs that transport blood throughout the body. The heart pumps the blood and the arteries and veins transport it. Now that we’ve finished with the first-grade bodily systems synopsis we can move on 🙂 The point is, a Creator implies design, and design implies purpose. These systems were created by their Creator to do something.
The same is true of the reproductive system. It has been labeled thus by science, not by the bible, for that is its function. Reproduction is what that system was designed to do. And independent of whether or not you believe in a divine designer, there is no question as to what that system is for.
Voluntary sterilization then, is the decision to purposefully break that system so that it no longer does what is meant to do. Ideally, the goal is to break this bodily system so badly that it will never function again. At the time of my initial vasectomy, my urologist pointed out that he cauterizes both sides of the severed vas deferens tubes in order to prevent the body from trying to heal the damage done to it. Apparently, the body has been designed to be so good at repairing itself, that even after cutting the vas tubes, if only one side of the cut is cauterized, there are instances when the other side may try to reattach and regrow around the damaged side neutralizing the effectiveness of the vasectomy. The process of attempting to systematically break this fully functioning system of the body beyond repair is one which we refer to as “getting fixed.” Ironic, isn’t it?
As far as I am aware, we don’t attempt to “fix” any other system of the body in this way, and I have to wonder whether it is reasonable to believe that we have the right to make this type of design change on a system that we didn’t create? Creation implies design, and design implies purpose – and then we come along and we decide to intentionally thwart the purpose of the Creator by attempting to irreparably break the design. At the very least it seems a little arrogant.
(For those who don’t believe in God, this wouldn’t necessarily seem arrogant, but the arguments from natural order hold up regardless of how you arrive at natural order. I.e. objectively procreation is the purpose which science gives to the reproductive system, and this is a procedure which seeks to thwart the natural order by intentionally and systematically breaking the system – something which is unheard of within nature.)
The next logical step, even if it is as plain as the nose on our face, is to ask the question, “What is the purpose of sterilization?” The obvious – and only – answer is to prevent new life. There is no other reason to break the reproductive system of the body in this way.
We know that this is the obvious and only answer to the question: to prevent new life. Nevertheless, it is an answer that we are not very comfortable with. Even reading the line above tends to give us pause. This is why we use euphemisms such as “getting fixed” and joke about going in to “get snipped.” It’s comforting; it sounds like something you do to a loose thread, or a hair that’s sprouted from your nose, rather than an exclamation point at the end of the statement, “I want to prevent life!”
But there was more to my decision than the entirely reasonable argument that sterilization disregards the natural order. More than the logical conclusion that sterilization controverts God’s design and purpose. There was also the influence of my Christian faith, which for me was a primary consideration. I believe, that as the Scriptures teach, we were created in both the image and likeness of God. I believe that while only God can create a new human being (since I cannot create eternal souls), I am nonetheless allowed to play a part in the creation of new human life. Scripture teaches that children are a gift, and I am forced to believe that they are having been blessed myself with three wonderful boys.
And in the end, if I’m honest, all my reasons for undergoing sterilization were selfish ones. It was my selfishness and lack of trust that were the obvious and only answers to wanting to prevent new life. I didn’t trust God with my finances, or our health, or the health of any new children which He may have wanted to bless us with. I was too selfish with my time and my life – too selfish to want additional inconveniences. And, in my arrogance, I figured that I probably knew better than God when it came to His design and purposes for my life and my body.
The uncomfortable truth which I was confronted with, was that voluntary sterilization was only the last step in my ongoing process of rejecting new life. For years my wife and I had used contraception in order to decide for ourselves how and when we saw fit to “allow” God to bless us with a new life. At a fundamental level, contraception closes the marital sexual act to the gift of life, and once a husband and wife have allowed a contraceptive mentality to seep into their thinking, they will begin to view any unplanned pregnancy as an inconvenience at best, and as a hostile intruder at worst. This was the state I found myself in.
This mentality wasn’t peculiar to me, but rather this is the mentality of our age and culture. This fundamental rejection of life has given rise to both legalized abortion procedures, and the rapidly rising rates of abortion that we see in our nation and in our world. I know that that may sound like a bold claim, but let me offer some facts to help substantiate it.
Prior to the 20th century contraception was considered objectively morally wrong by every branch of Christianity. The first Christian denomination to approve of artificial birth control was the Anglican Church (Church of England), or as it is called here in the states, the Episcopalian Church. At the August 14, 1930 Lambeth Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Church, a resolution was passed which allowed the use of methods to limit the size of families “where there is a clearly-felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood.” The “primary and obvious method” was considered “complete abstinence from intercourse … in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit”1 ; however, other methods could also be used, namely artificial means. Bishop Brent gave an impassioned plea stating that if the resolution passed, soon artificial birth control would be allowed for any reason and the decision would give way to selfish rationalization. Following their resolution, virtually every other Christian denomination followed suit, and abortion was legalized in the United States less than 50 years later with the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. I know that correlation does not imply causation, but let’s look at a few more details.
The following excerpts are taken from Peter Baklinski’s excellent article on the subject:
The United State’s highest court had no difficulty in seeing the causal link between contraception and abortion in a 1992 ruling that confirmed Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that brought legal abortion to America. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court argued that in some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception: “…for two decades of economic and social developments, [people] have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” What the Supreme Court pointed out is that in a contracepting society, abortion not only becomes a necessity, but it becomes the ultimate fail-safe method of birth control. In the mind of the court, contraception doesn’t lessen the need for abortion, but on the contrary, contraception precipitates abortion.
According to Joyce Arthur, founder and executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, “Most abortions result from failed contraception.” Arthur’s statement parallels a prediction made in 1973 by Dr. Malcolm Potts, former medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, who said: “As people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate.”
Dr. Dianne Irving, a bioethicist at Georgetown University and a former bench biochemist with the U.S. National Institute of Health, “Since it is … a long-recognized and documented scientific fact that almost all so-called ‘contraceptives’ routinely fail at statistically significant rates resulting in ‘unplanned pregnancies’, is there any wonder that elective abortions are socially required in order to take care of such ‘accidents’?” “Thus abortion has become a ‘contraceptive’ in and of itself,”
Dr. Janet Smith, a professor, author, and national speaker, agrees with Dr. Irving: “Contraception leads us to believe that sex can be a momentary encounter, not a life-long commitment. It has brought about the concept of ‘accidental pregnancy.'” She also wrote that, “The connection between contraception and abortion is primarily this: contraception facilitates the kind of relationships and even the kind of attitudes and moral characters that are likely to lead to abortion,”.
Put differently, contraception radically changes the meaning and purpose of sex. Contraception turns the sexual act between a man and a woman that is biologically ordered towards the creation of a new life into a parody of the act, where a newly created life can suddenly be viewed as an uninvited and unwelcome guest. Abortion becomes the easy solution by which the parent permanently and violently disinvites the unwelcome guest.
A [ten year] 2011 Spanish study found that as use of contraceptive methods increased in a sample of more than 2000 Spanish women (49.1% to 79.9%), the rate of abortion in the group doubled in the same period. Research from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute showed in 2011 that a majority of abortions took place in America after contraception failure: “54 percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method [usually condom or the pill] during the month they became pregnant.”
The correlations between contraception, sterilization, and abortion are becoming increasingly clear in the society we live in. We live in a culture that rejects life and promotes death. To the list of contraception, sterilization, and abortion, we could also add homosexuality (the ultimate form of contraceptive sex in which there is no possibility of new life), and euthanasia. All of these issues are intertwined, and all of them share the common ground of individual selfishness and a rejection of life.
In contrast to this culture of death, the Catholic Church continues to promote a culture of life as she has done for the last two thousand years.
In A.D. 195, Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted.”2 This has been the Church’s teaching from the very beginning. “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.3
This is why the Catholic Church teaches that the marital act must be both unitive and procreative, and that “each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of human life,” and thereby excludes “every action…to render procreation impossible.” 4 An excellent article is available on this subject at the Catholic Answers website. A married couple is allowed, however, to use Natural Family Planning (NFP) to naturally and morally postpone pregnancy by not having sex during the woman’s fertile period when there is justifiable cause for doing so within the marriage.
At this point I would like to be very clear on two things. First, the Catholic Church in no way requires her members to undergo vasectomy reversals when entering into the Church. My decision was a result of being exposed for the first time to the imminent reasonableness of the Church’s teaching on this issue, and being willing to obey the convictions that God laid on my heart. Secondly, I am in no way “pointing the finger”, or suggesting that anyone else must undergo this process in order to “do the right thing.” For me this has been a process of trying to learn to let go of my selfishness and need for control, and instead trying to trust God with my life. It’s not an easy thing to do. All of the concerns and questions stated above remain. I still worry about financial and health issues. I still struggle with not viewing a potential new family member as an inconvenience. But ultimately God has a plan and a design for my life and family – a purpose – and I don’t want to get in the way.
My purpose in sharing my reasons for undergoing a reversal is to try and help others to see things in a different light – we need to avoid blindly accepting the philosophies and practices of our culture and society. We need to ask ourselves why all Christians of every denomination universally stood against these philosophies and practices for nearly two millennia, and why we no longer do.
I do hope that there are those who have not yet opted for voluntary sterilization who will perhaps read this blog and reconsider their options. I do hope that we can begin to have conversations again about the moral viability of contraception and sterilization, and the pervasive consequences of their widespread use in our society and culture. I do hope that as parents we will perhaps begin to have different conversations with our children as they approach adulthood and marriage.
These are the reasons and arguments against contraception and sterilization that I was almost completely unaware of ten years ago when I decided to sterilize myself, and these are the reasons that ultimately compelled me to reverse that decision, undergoing a procedure to become “fixed” in the true sense of the word!
Keep me in your prayers, and I will keep you in mine.
Also check out our latest podcasts!