When does contraception become abortifacient?

Contraception“All hormonal contraceptives have an abortifacient potential”[i].

This article examines the week in which life is conceived but is not yet a technical pregnancy” when contraceptives have abortifacient potential but still go under the banner of “contraceptive”.

A contraceptive prevents human life from beginning, while an abortifacient is a drug or device which causes an abortion within the first week or two of a human’s life also called a “chemical abortion”.

This is straightforward, yet bound up in the definitions is where the startling reality lies that many women are unaware they routinely take “contraceptives” which are causing them to chemically abort their week old baby.

Firstly the beginning of life needs to be defined.  The scientific community are united in their view that life begins at fertilisation; when a sperm unites with an oocyte or ovum.  “Basics of Biology”  outline that from the moment of conception; the being is highly organized, has the ability to acquire materials and energy, has the ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and has the ability to reproduce by cells dividing.  Non-living things do not do these things.  Even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, a distinct, unique life has begun his or her existence inside her.

Dr Jerome Lejeune, the Father of Modern Genetics, so eloquently testifies; “Each of us has a very precise starting moment which is the time at which the whole necessary and sufficient genetic information is gathered inside one cell, the fertilised egg, and this is the moment of fertilisation.  There is not the slightest doubt about that and we know that this information is written on a kind of ribbon we call the DNA”.  It is a simple and undisputed fact that life starts at conception.

Yet the issue got complicated in the early 1960’s when officials from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology teamed up with the United States Food and Drug Administration, and redefined the word “conception”.   It would no longer be the union of sperm and ovum, but would be the time, one week later, when this new human implants inside the lining of the mother’s womb.

What transpired was a consensus that although life begins at conception (which from this time onwards would be “fertilisation”) pregnancy would be defined as starting at implantation one week after sperm and ovum meet and fertilisation occurs.

Subsequently pregnancy today is defined as being from the moment of implantation in the mother’s uterus, one week or so after “fertilisation”.  Contraceptives therefore are not technically terminating a pregnancy until the embryo is implanted in the mother’s uterus even though the embryo is accepted as being a living being from the moment of fertilisation approximately a week or so earlier.

The legacy of this redefinition is that when a woman discusses contraception with her doctor in terms of definitions the doctor is correct in stating the medication is not abortifacient and will not stop a pregnancy.  What they are omitting is that a life, accepted by both the scientific and medical community, though not a “pregnancy” as it is not yet implanted in the mother’s womb, could be ended. This is where contraceptives venture into the territory of abortifacients.

So life starts at conception but pregnancy starts at implantation.  What are the risks that common contraceptives are terminating pregnancies in this medical limbo between fertilisation and implantation?

According to the “Physician’s Desk Reference” the birth control pill works in three ways; to prevent ovulation, inhibit fertilisation by thickening the cervical mucus and making it harder for sperm to travel, and by inhibiting implantation by making the endometrium or lining of the womb hostile to implantation. This third stage is where the Pill has abortifacient potential. A hostile endometrium means a developing baby (embryo) cannot attach to the uterine lining and dies, which is a very early “chemical abortion”.

When a representative for Ortho-McNeil, the largest manufacturer of the pill in the United States, was interviewed he candidly outlined that “the Pill sometimes does fail to prevent ovulation but the cervical mucus slows down the sperm.  And if that doesn’t work, if you end up with a fertilised egg, it won’t implant and grow because of the less hospitable endometrium”[ii].

This is startling considering 202,000 New Zealand women use the Pill to avoid pregnancy[iii].

Another common contraceptive is the intrauterine device, or IUD, which functions primarily to prevent implantation.  So every fertilised embryo is chemically aborted. This prompted Dr Teitze from the American Medical Association Committee to state “Whatever uncertainty may still exist concerning the actual workings of the IUD, there is no reasonable doubt that it accomplishes its birth control function as an early abortion agent after conception has occurred, and it is a misnomer to call such an action “contraceptive.” [iv]

Despite such opposition the IUD is advertised in medical journals as a “contraceptive”.  The morning-after pill, or shot, is advertised as a “contraceptive”.  The contraceptive pill is also advertised as a “contraceptive”.

These common contraceptives are undoubtedly abortifacient; but what is the fertilisation rate? Or to be blunt, how many chemical abortions are contraceptive users likely to instigate unawares?

Opinions and studies vary widely.  The Physicians Desk Reference offer a breakthrough ovulation rate of 3 %, and the Potter paper determine 7% breakthrough ovulation[v].  In more recent years many more drastic results are challenging the establishment with Dr Ronald Chez, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, publicly stating that the Pills of today with their lower estrogen dose, allow ovulation up to 50% of the time[vi].  In independent research it was found the Mini-pill does not stop ovulation at all in 67-81% of women who use it[vii].  Depo-Provera has a breakthrough ovulation rate of 40-60% and IUDs allow ovulation 100% of the time.  A chilling thought for 202,000 New Zealand women?

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[i] Harlap, Susan; Kost, Kathryn; Darroch Forrest, Jacqueline 1991, “Preventing Pregnancy, Protecting Health: A New Look at Contraceptive Choices in the United States”, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, pp 17 – 28.

[ii] Grinstead, Jeffrey; “The Pill Kills – The harrowing truth behind the birth control pill”

[iii] Orr, Ken 2010: Right to Life, New Zealand Inc “The Contraceptive Pill-The Dawn of Demonic Deception”

[iv] Teitze, Christopher: ND American Medical Association Committee on Human Development :“Intrauterine contraception: a research report

[v] Physicians’ Desk Reference: 1997 “The noted information can be found when looking up any oral contraceptive.  Failure rate for “typical use” is noted to be 3 percent.

Potter, LA.  “How effective are Contraceptives? The determination and measurement of pregnancy rates” Obstet Gynecol 1996; 88:135-235

[vi] Stems, David, M.D; Stems, Gina R.N, B.S.N; Yaksich, Pamela, “Gambling with Life, How the IUD and ‘The Pill’ Work”

[vii] Bardstown, KY 1994: “Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives” by the Study of Abortion Deaths Ad Hoc Commission

Eight Reasons to Consider Having One More Child

“Behold, children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 126 (127)

Many years ago, Fr Paul Marx, OSB, founder of Human Life International (and Family Life International NZ) wrote a booklet entitled “Eight Reasons to Consider Having One More Child.”  These wonderful reasons to consider if God is calling you to welcoming another child into your family are no less out of date today.

So I share today with you the eight reasons Fr Marx gave us with his own words:  “Is God calling you to have another child?  Please read this short message with an open and prayerful heart, then decide.”

  1. Love of God.
  2. Each child is an everlasting expression of the unselfish love you have for each other in the commitment of marriage.
  3. The Western world is dying out.  We are no longer replacing ourselves.  New Zealand’s fertility rate in 1999 was 2.0.  (2.2 children per couple is required, practically that means three children per couple).
  4. Your trust and faith in God and your true generosity can be seen in the size of your family.  (That is not to say that those who have small families do not trust in God or are not generous – they may show this in other ways).
  5. The Western world is “rich”, we have high standards of living.  Do we really need all that we think we need?  If you cannot afford to have more children, who can?
  6. Children raised in a truly Christian home are your real insurance against loneliness in old age.
  7. You are more likely to have Religious Vocations from your family.
  8. Children from large (or larger) families usually are more considerate, thoughtful and caring.  Great preparation for adult life.

“…the Church encourages couples to be generous and hopeful, to realize that parenthood is a privilege and that each child bears witness to the couple’s own love for each other, to their generosity and to their openess to God. They must be encouraged to see the child as an enrichment of their marriage and a gift of God to themselves and to their other children.” (John Paul II to US Bishops, September 1983). 

Will you consider having one more child?

Be Fruitful and Multiply

“God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it.'” (Genesis 1:28)

This is a command that most married couples wish to fulfill.  For the majority, procreation happens with relative ease.  Some fall pregnant easily, others take a little time, but find that pregnancy is achieved naturally within a few months.  However, there is an ever widening group for whom infertility is a very real issue which causes much heartache.

Recently we learned of a new fertility product called “Duo Fertility”.  Developed by Cambridge Temperature Concepts in the UK, the device takes a woman’s basal body temperature up to 20,000 times in a 24 hour period in order to detect when ovulation is most likely to occur.  Additional personal information is also collected and everything is entered onto a database.  Couples are given a fertility analysis which gives the most accurate predictions.

This is a great device for couples who wish to optimise their chances of conceiving, and certainly fits into Catholic morality.  It is a more sophisticated device than the ovulation test kits that are available in the pharmacies.  Devices like these give couples struggling to conceive extra knowledge about their fertility, and would be particularly useful when used in conjunction with a system of Natural Fertility Regulation, such as the Billings Ovulation Method.

Christian couples who wish to remain faithful to God’s plan for human sexuality, marriage and procreation need to be aware that the makers of “Duo Fertility” are not against IVF treatments.   Cambridge Temperature Concepts states in their on-line literature:

“It should be noted that there are a number of conditions with which DuoFertility cannot be expected to assist and where IVF is an entirely appropriate treatment with significant success.”

This statement does not pose a moral problem for those using the “Duo Fertility” device itself.  However users should be aware that advice may be given to look further into IVF treatments if they are not successful in conceiving while using this device.  That is a position that Family Life International cannot endorse.

We would prefer to promote an alternative technology that embraces Catholic moral teaching about procreation and marriage from the outset.   NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology) is a very real alternative to IVF and is extremely useful for couples experiencing difficulties in conceiving.

NaProTechnology was developed in the US by Dr Thomas Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute.  While not yet available in New Zealand,  it is available in numerous cities in Australia.  It would be wonderful to be able to offer this service to New Zealanders.

NaProTechnology takes the following approach to the infertile couple:

  • Assesses the underlying causes of the reproductive abnormality.
  • Allows for the treatment of underlying causes.
  • Assists the couple in achieving pregnancy while maintaing the natural acts of procreation.
  • Research into unknown causes is undertaken if the treatment plan is unsuccessful.
  • Family building through adoption is supported if the medical programme has been unsuccessful.

For Catholic couples, NaProTechnology is an acceptable alternative to IVF treatment as it fully embraces the Catholic understanding of human sexuality, marriage and procreation.

We would encourage couples having difficulty in conceiving to approach a good doctor who understands the ethics involved in fertility treatments, and who will respect their wishes to remain faithful to God’s plan for marriage.

Our website has more information regarding the morality of infertility treatments.

For more information regarding NaProTechnology visit the US site or the Australian site.