Human Trafficking and The Morning After Pill: Do They Go Together?
What choice will you make when you come to a fork in the road? Will you choose to stand up for what you believe, or will you stand by and conform to the world around you? When I was a medical student, I pondered when the time would come where I had to make that
by, Janie Christine Ogle, DO
What choice will you make when you come to a fork in the road? Will you choose to stand up for what you believe, or will you stand by and conform to the world around you? When I was a medical student, I pondered when the time would come where I had to make that decision and if I would remain faithful to my belief. Thankfully, my CMDA group in medical school went through a CMDA devotional for medical students titled Living in the Lab without Smelling Like a Cadaver. This book taught me that obedience was not a choice to be made in the moment, but rather it is a resolute verdict made beforehand. Growing up I was surrounded with support and values from my church and its members. This support continued in medical school, but things changed as I entered residency. I felt like a sheep amidst wolves. I found myself like Esther of the Bible with an opportunity to take a stand for what I believe, though it could have cost me significantly in my career.
Most of us are aware of the international tragedy of human trafficking. CMDA is actively involved in ministering to these victims by equipping Christian healthcare professionals to take a stand against it through their profession. As Christians, we recognize that such abuse of human life is evil against the only creation which bears the image of God Himself. Like countless other Christians in healthcare, I wanted to help make a difference for these victims but was unsure how to do so. Then, as a lowly intern, God dropped me in the right place at the right time, and I found myself working to create our hospital’s protocol for human trafficking victims. I spent countless hours poring over resources, including Dr. Jeff Barrows’ Toolkit called “Developing a Protocol for Reporting Victims of Human Trafficking,” which is available through hopeforjustice.org and can help improve a hospital’s protocol to serve those in desperate need. I put my heart and soul into it. God had given me an opportunity to be the voice and driver of this protocol. If God had not opened this opportunity, it may have stayed on my attending’s list of things to do.
I had spent months on the project, and the protocol was approved. We then put together an order set to expedite and improve clarity of the protocol. I waited for the order set to be finalized, so I was ecstatic as I reviewed the final version of order set I had worked tirelessly on. As I perused, I recognized a change. It was an order I had intentionally left out: Levonorgestrel. I was angry and extremely disappointed. After a few days, I informed my supervising physicians that I did not know if I could continue on the project if they felt this addition to the order set was necessary. After waiting patiently for their response, I was disappointed to hear they felt it was necessary to include Levonorgestrel despite my concerns.
To fully understand why this addition impacted me so much, it’s important to understand what Levonorgestrel truly is and how it made such a difference. For those not in the medical field, the name of Levonorgestrel isn’t well-known. However, it’s more commonly known by its brand name: Plan B. Levonorgestrel is a hormonal medication used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, and it’s used as an emergency contraceptive and shouldn’t be used as a regular form of birth control.
And so began my journey of major soul searching, praying and asking others to pray with me. I want to share some of that journey, as countless Christian healthcare professionals struggle with this topic, given some of the situations we see on a daily basis. Are there any situations where an abortifacient is okay? Even if I don’t agree with the use of this drug, does it mean I have to abandon the project all together? Is standing up for this one thing worth giving up on the entire project and all my hard work? My colleagues already know I’m pro-life and a Christian and I’m not ridiculed too much as it is, but is this going to make me the center of their Christian jokes?
As I began soul searching, I asked myself three specific questions:
- Is Levonorgestrel really an abortifacient?
Yes, it can inhibit implantation of a fertilized egg. CMDA’s position statement on the Beginning of Human Life states that life begins at fertilization and lists detailed reasons for this belief. CMDA’s position statement on abortion states, “We oppose the practice of abortion and urge the active development and employment of alternatives.”
- Does the fact that many of these pregnancies aren’t wanted justify the use of Levonorgestrel?
As healthcare professionals, we have unfortunately seen the horrible outcomes of children unwanted by their caregivers. But does that truly justify the use of Levonorgestrel? Is it more humane to abort this child that might be abused or have severe neurologic deficits from alcohol, drugs or abuse suffered by the mother? This is essentially the same root question the apostle Paul asked the members of the Roman church, “And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?” (Romans 3:8a, NKJV). Paul quickly condemns this thinking. Yes, sin and evil exist in this world, and sometimes people do extremely evil things to children and women; however, we are not God and do not know the plans He has for each life He created. Only God, as the Creator of human life, has the right and the sovereignty for those decisions.
- Can I continue to work on this project?
As we discussed, it is an abortifacient; therefore, it is my belief that it is wrong to use, no matter the situation. My personal dilemma was that a protocol I created now included this as an option. Should I continue to work on the project, did that mean I was condoning the use of that medication for the intended purpose to arrest pregnancy? If I personally knew I rejected the protocol, was that enough? This is the fork in the road I had pondered. Would I have to choose what is easy versus what I knew was right? I prayed, searched the Scriptures and spoke with other Christian healthcare professionals. The initial consensus was that most of them did not agree with its use, but they also did not feel that it was ethical to withhold options from patients because of their beliefs. I understand the logic and I can rationalize this answer. God Himself does not withhold options from us just because they are wrong. He allows us to choose for ourselves. This led me to search the Scriptures over the free will of man versus God’s sovereignty. Does God withhold options from us? If not, then who is ultimately responsible for those decisions? Various Scriptures teach us it is our responsibility to answer for the decisions we make (Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:12). So I guess it is okay for me to still work with this team and be part of this protocol even as it is? Honestly, I think this is one of those questions only the Holy Spirit can guide and direct each person in their particular situation. What I felt was being obedient to God for my situation may not be how the Spirit leads in other individual situations.
After praying through it all and searching the Scriptures myself, what continued to be impressed upon my heart was that I did NOT want to have anything to do with this pill, despite the consequences. I came to this conclusion just a few days prior to meeting with the human trafficking team to discuss and finalize the order set. I walked into this meeting fully expecting I would be walking out no longer a member of the team.
But God. Are these not some of the most beautiful words in Scripture?
I met the emergency room attending physician just outside the room, and the first thing he said to me was, “I need to thank you.” I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly, but he said it again, “I need to thank you because you made me stop and think about this and pray about it. There were a lot of tears and prayers, and we decided to leave it out of the protocol.”
Between the time both physicians initially told me the decision to use Levonorgestrel was final and the time when they changed their minds and took it out, the only intervention that occurred was prayer. God stepped in and said “No,” and He changed their hearts in order to accomplish His purpose. Ultimately, they decided the potential for pregnancy needed to be discussed, but they were not going to mandate to healthcare professionals how to discuss it or what options to include. The protocol was changed to include a communication order to discuss the potential for pregnancy in lieu of a medication order for Levonorgestrel.
In the end, God had the final word and revealed His power in so doing. As He did so, He taught me several lessons through it.
- Don’t just accept what other Christians say is okay or acceptable without praying through it and searching the Scriptures yourself. God does not ask you to be as good as other Christians; instead, He asks us to be obedient as He guides us. We are not of this world, and we should not let others put us into their molds.
- God will provide. He did not have to reward my obedience with a good outcome, and He does not always do so. He is good and perfect in all His ways, regardless of whether or not I was ridiculed by my coworkers or made to look like a fool for my beliefs. Yet, in His grace and kindness, He chose to allow things to work out as such in a positive way, and I am incredibly thankful.
- While growing up, I often heard my pastor say that prayer is not preparation for work; instead, prayer is the work. Prayer is the most powerful tool I have, period.
- Yes, God does not withhold from us the bad choices we could make. Yet, even God, in His sovereignty, does not give us ALL the options. For it is only by the grace of God that I myself am not as evil as the very people who abuse these trafficked victims. He has kept me from much evil by concealing options I am unaware of. Yet, it is through making some bad decisions that we grow and He refines us. Only God in His infinite sovereignty, grace and mercy knows who can handle which options and who cannot. As finite humans with finite knowledge, we cannot make those distinctions. Even the CMDA position statement on physician-assisted suicide addresses the root of this by stating, “the sovereignty of God places a limit on human autonomy.”
As Christian healthcare professionals, we are to be the hands and feet of Christ. When we see injustice, we are to obey when God leads us to stand against it. If you haven’t faced a similar situation yet in your career where you had to decide whether or not to stand up for your beliefs, it’s more than likely you will eventually. And as you face these situations, I pray you will be attentive to the Holy Spirit for His direction and leading. I pray it causes you to seek His face in prayer and in the Word. I pray you utilize resources like those CMDA develops, as well as the fellowship and community of Christian healthcare professionals through CMDA, to help you keep your eyes on Christ in the midst of your situation. And as you do, I pray God will bless you with more of Himself to guide you as you stand firm in His presence and His Word.
CMDA’s Commission on Human Trafficking equips, supports, motivates, sends and transforms CMDA members in their role to abolish human trafficking within the U.S. and abroad. For more information and to get involved, visit www.cmda.org/humantrafficking.
About the Author
Janie Christine Ogle, DO, is currently a sports medicine fellow at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee. She received her bachelor’s of science in education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, attended medical school at the Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, and recently finished her pediatric residency at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. She has been a CMDA member since her first year of medical school and actively involved in the fight against human trafficking since that time as well. She also continues to pursue medicine as missions both in Memphis as well as in various countries around the world.