A Prescription for Chastity

When Dr. Thomas Theocharides stopped prescribing contraceptives for unmarried women, he didn't expect to find himself in a national debate about premarital sex. But that's just what happened. Dr. Theocharides is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Elkhart, Indiana. He knows from long experience how harmful sexual relations are for single women. He's had to tell countless patients that their out-of-wedlock sex gave them incurable diseases or made them sterile. And he knows that birth-control devices give women a false sense of security against both disease and pregnancy. So Dr. Theocharides came to believe that his prescriptions for contraceptives were enabling women to act against their own best interests. He concluded he was contributing to their experience of physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. And that he would be held accountable by God for abetting women in sin. So the doctor made what he deemed to be a simple decision of conscience. In a Christmas letter to his patients, he wrote: "Because of the . . . epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, a single woman who is sexually active exposes herself to serious health risks. I have come to see that prescribing . . . contraceptive[s] to single women encourages or condones . . . a potentially deadly activity." And he announced that he would no longer prescribe contraceptives for single women. Only days later, Dr. Theocharides awoke to find his photograph on page one of his local newspaper, the Elkhart Truth. Next to it was a report that quoted his letter. National news services soon picked up the story. The doctor's phone began ringing off the hook. Soon television and radio programs wanted to interview this suddenly controversial doctor. Talk-show hosts and their callers debated his decision. Feminists accused Dr. Theocharides of trying to control women. Some of his long-time patients abandoned him as their doctor. But of course Dr. Theocharides wasn't trying to "control" anybody. He was simply refusing to continue in what he believed was a hypocritical contradiction between his beliefs and his behavior. As he told us here at "BreakPoint," "When you preach abstinence on the one hand, and pass out contraceptives on the other, you lose the power of your testimony." In other words, Dr. Theocharides finally obeyed his conscience. Our society used to honor such people, especially when their courage carried a cost. The Indiana doctor's decision has had its costs. For example, he's had to endure widespread criticism, and he's lost some patients. But Dr. Theocharides's obedience to his conscience has had its blessings and its benefits. Thousands of people have suddenly heard about one individual doctor who upholds our Christian conviction that the expression of sexual love should be preserved for marriage. And they've been reminded of the ugly consequences—like disease, sterility, even death for aborted babies—that we risk when we disobey God's command. So I say three cheers for Dr. Theocharides! His courageous decision is a reminder to all of us that no matter how difficult or controversial the moral issue, our duty is to obey. And to leave the consequences to God.


Chuck Colson


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