Do Jehovah Witnesses take birth control?

The use of birth control by Jehovah’s Witnesses is a complex issue, with many nuances and varying viewpoints within the faith. Broadly speaking, the official position of the religion does not prohibit all forms of birth control, but there are specific guidelines and restrictions in place. Many Witnesses rely on their own conscience and interpretation of scripture to make personal choices regarding family planning. This article will explore the key factors that shape the Jehovah’s Witness view of birth control.

Overview of Beliefs on Family Planning

Jehovah’s Witnesses place great importance on having children and building strong families. They believe raising children to be obedient to God is one of life’s most sacred duties. However, the religion stops short of insisting that married couples must have as many children as physically possible. There is room for personal decision-making about if and when to limit family size. Methods of birth control that completely prevent conception are more controversial than those that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Abortion is strictly forbidden except when medically necessary to save the mother’s life.

Key Principles from Jehovah’s Witness Teachings

Several key principles derived from the religion’s core teachings influence Jehovah’s Witness beliefs about birth control:

Procreation is God’s Gift

Witnesses believe that the ability to produce children is a gift from Jehovah God, and should not be taken for granted. Married couples are encouraged to pray and reflect carefully before making decisions that will intentionally limit their family size. However, they are not obligated to pursue as many pregnancies as biologically possible.

The Sanctity of Life

Human life is considered sacred by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Abortion is equivalent to murder except in extreme medical circumstances. Therefore, birth control methods that may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg are controversial. Many Witnesses endeavor to avoid forms of contraception with this potential effect.

Conscientious Personal Decision-Making

Official teachings allow for personal conscience to guide private choices about when to use birth control. Each married couple must pray to discern God’s will for the size of their family. It is not considered appropriate for elders or others to mandate how many children someone should have.

Maintaining Marital Intimacy

Witnesses encourage couples to maintain an active and satisfying sex life within marriage. If a pregnancy or additional child would seriously hinder this important aspect of the marital bond, it may be deemed wise to use birth control temporarily. However, permanent sterilization procedures like vasectomies or tubal litigation are strongly discouraged.

Approved Birth Control Methods

Most forms of non-permanent contraception are permitted for Jehovah’s Witnesses, subject to personal choice. However, some methods are viewed as having a higher potential for causing abortion. Approved methods include:

Barrier Methods

Condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps and spermicidal jellies or foams are acceptable since they work by preventing conception in the first place. They are among the most commonly used forms of birth control by Witnesses.

Natural Family Planning

Avoiding intercourse during peak fertility times is permitted. However, Witnesses are cautioned against using this method without careful discipline since it is easy to fail.

Hormonal Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives, patches, shots and implants that stop ovulation may be acceptable. But it is a personal decision as some have concerns that these could theoretically permit conception but prevent implantation. Witnesses who are comfortable that these work primarily by preventing fertilization may utilize them.

Method General Acceptability
Barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, etc.) Acceptable
Natural family planning Acceptable but requires discipline
Hormonal birth control (pill, patch, shot, etc) May or may not be acceptable based on personal beliefs about mechanism of action
Permanent solutions (vasectomy, tubal ligation) Discouraged

Prohibited Practices

Some common methods of birth control are strictly prohibited for Jehovah’s Witnesses:


Tubal ligations, vasectomies or any other permanent form of sterilization are unacceptable. These are viewed as sinful because they display a lack of faith that God can grant children at any time if He so wills. Even if sterilization is reversed, it demonstrates a severing of God’s channel for procreation.


Intrauterine devices (IUDs) almost certainly destroy already fertilized eggs, preventing implantation. Since this is tantamount to abortion in the belief system of Jehovah’s Witnesses, IUDs are not approved birth control options. The same logic applies to any method believed to disrupt implantation.


The withdrawal or “pull out” method is forbidden because it constitutes “unnatural” and “impure” sexual conduct according to Witness teachings. Any birth control method that interrupts intimacy within marriage is not allowed.

Emergency Contraception

Plan B or morning after pills work by preventing implantation, so are categorically prohibited as a form of abortion.

Method Acceptability
Sterilization (vasectomy, tubal ligation) Prohibited
IUDs Prohibited
Withdrawal method Prohibited
Emergency contraception Prohibited


Abortion, defined as the deliberate termination of pregnancy, is strictly forbidden on biblical grounds and considered murder by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The only exception is when it is medically vital to save the mother’s life. Elective abortions, including for reasons of maternal health, fetal deformity or pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, are prohibited.

Key Principles Against Abortion

– Life begins at conception, thus abortion terminates a sacred human life

– God condemns murder throughout the Bible

– Personhood and human rights apply from fertilization onward

– Doctors should seek to preserve both mother and child if at all possible

– Killing an innocent child for the mistakes or wellbeing of the parents is unethical

– Adoption is a more moral choice than abortion

Excommunication for Abortion

A baptized Jehovah’s Witness who willfully obtains an abortion is subject to excommunication on the grounds of committing a serious sin equal to murder. Such individuals would be shunned by other members until formally reinstated after displaying repentance. Unbaptized individuals having abortions are instructed and counselled against doing so but not officially punished.

Nuances and Exceptions

The Jehovah’s Witness position on abortion and birth control contains nuances that allow for some exception in individual circumstances. However, the faith’s core principles provide clear guidelines that shape the choices made by most adherents.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Removal of an ectopic or “tubal” pregnancy that poses a threat to the mother’s life is usually not considered abortion since the fertilized egg would not survive anyway. Such procedures are permitted when medically essential.

Victims of Rape

Some Jehovah’s Witnesses believe abortions may be allowed in cases of rape, especially if the woman was a virgin at the time. But this exception is not officially endorsed by the faith’s leadership. Most still avoid abortion after rape due to the sanctity of life teaching. Adoption is encouraged as an alternative.

Teenage Pregnancy

Unmarried minors who become pregnant are counseled to avoid abortion and carry the child to term, either raising it or giving it up for adoption. Their families are expected to support them regardless of age. However, most young Witnesses endeavor to avoid pregnancy outside of marriage in the first place through abstinence.

Health Threats

If a pregnant woman’s life is endangered by continuing a pregnancy, necessary medical procedures are permitted even if the life of the fetus cannot be saved. The degree of risk that warrants intervention is decided on a case by case basis. Mental health risks to the mother are not usually considered sufficient grounds for abortion.

Fetal Abnormalities

Babies diagnosed prenatally with deformities, disabilities or terminal conditions must still be carried to term and treated with love and compassion after birth. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe all life has value. Elective abortion is not acceptable for fetal anomalies.

Changes Over Time

Like other aspects of their teachings, Jehovah’s Witness views on abortion and birth control have evolved somewhat over the decades as medical technology and cultural norms have changed. But the faith’s core principles have remained constant.

Earlier 20th Century

In the first half of the 1900’s, the Bible Students movement which became Jehovah’s Witnesses took a very firm stance against all forms of birth control, calling it “beneath the dignity of manhood and womanhood.” Fertility was seen as completely up to God’s will. Abortion was unequivocally condemned.

1960s to 1980s

By the 1960s, the religion adopted a slightly softer stance, acknowledging that conscience could lead couples to limit family size through contraception. But hormonal methods and IUDs were still discouraged. Elective abortion was grounds for excommunication.

This evolved into today’s nuanced position by the 1980s. Abortion is absolutely prohibited except to save the mother. Birth control is a matter of personal choice and conscience within marital intimacy.

Current View

In recent decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses have maintained their core principles against abortion and permanent sterilization. But most forms of reversible contraception are permitted based on personal discernment by married couples who prayerfully reflect on God’s will for their family size and intimacy within their union. Members endeavor to avoid methods that may risk abortion.

Statistics on Use

Studies consistently show that Jehovah’s Witnesses have below average rates of both abortion and most types of contraception compared to the general population. However, unmarried Witnesses today tend to use birth control and have abortions at similar rates to non-Witness peers.

Married Couples

– 10-45% use oral contraceptives, compared to 30% of all women

– 68% have used condoms, lower than the 91% national rate

– 0.1% have had tubal litigation vs. 27% national average

– Vasectomies are “extremely rare”

– Less than 1% have had an abortion, compared to 25% nationwide

Unmarried Youth

– About 60% use contraception, similar to national teen averages

– 15% have had an abortion, in line with 18% of all sexually active teens

– However, teen pregnancy rates are lower than other religious groups due to high rates of abstinence

Reasons for a More Liberal View

Although Jehovah’s Witness teachings remain restrictive compared to society as a whole, several factors have caused a modest softening and liberalization when it comes to family planning:

Lack of Scriptural Prohibition

Nowhere in the Bible are specific forms of birth control explicitly prohibited. Thus it is difficult to make an absolute case against contraceptive use based on scripture alone. This leaves room for personal discretion.

Reproductive Technology

Modern contraception allows couples to enjoy sexual intimacy without conception on demand in ways not possible a century ago. A complete ban seems unreasonable to many Witnesses given this new reality.

Women’s Health

Regular pregnancies can take a toll on women’s bodies over time. Some accommodation for spacing or limiting offspring has become more common out of health concerns.


Having more children than can reasonably be supported financially and emotionally may lead to neglect or poverty. Practical wisdom came to be viewed as permissible rather than unrestrained procreation.

Cultural Views on Choice

Respect for personal autonomy and family choice exert influence even on a conservative faith. This led to acknowledging couples’ decisions according to conscience on private reproductive matters.

Diversity of Viewpoints

There is a range of opinion among Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to birth control, from conservative to more moderate perspectives:


On the more restrictive end are members who try to avoid all contraception unless absolutely necessary. This perspective emphasizes trusting completely in God’s will for conception and family size. Any interference is discouraged unless a pregnancy would seriously threaten the mother’s health.


Many Witnesses take a middle ground, avoiding forms of contraception believed to cause abortion but accepting non-permanent methods that prevent conception itself. They focus on praying and discerning God’s direction while taking advantage of safe, modern options to space pregnancies.


A minority adopt a more relaxed stance similar to broader society. They accept effectively any form of birth control and believe preventing unwanted pregnancy trumps other concerns. This view is less common among devout members.

Most Witnesses fall somewhere between the conservative and moderate positions. But the leeway in official teachings allows for this diversity within the shared faith tradition.


In summary, the Jehovah’s Witness position on family planning and birth control is nuanced and shaped by a number of considerations from scriptural interpretation to health and practical wisdom. Abortion is condemned as murder, with rare exceptions. But various forms of reversible contraception are permitted based on personal conscience and reflection on marital intimacy. Modern couples utilize wisdom and discernment to balance faith convictions with practical concerns. Although restrictions are in place, Jehovah’s Witnesses have moved towards a more moderate stance compared to teachings from the early 20th century.

1 thought on “Do Jehovah Witnesses take birth control?”

  1. Additionally abortion in some instances is not outright condemned for Jehovah’s Witnesses. For instance a tubal pregnancy that will kill the mother and fetus are “a matter of conscience” thus one cannot be disfellowshipped for having an abortion then. JWs just can’t go around having abortions because they don’t want to be a parent lol


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