Monday, August 15, 2022

Is Your Birth Control Abortifacient? It might be.

For pro-life women like myself, the issue of abortion is a major moral issue. Killing a human child in the womb is a moral evil that we strongly oppose. But while the very thought of having a surgical abortion is abhorrent, many of us may not know that many of the birth control options on the drugstore shelves or available at our doctor's office and touted as purely contraceptive can also kill babies. There are pro-life women who are popping a pill every day, have an implant in their arm, or are using an IUD to prevent pregnancy and may be unknowingly aborting their own children.

Which forms of birth control have this risk? The short answer is that all hormonal contraceptives currently available and all IUDs have the potential to cause early abortions by preventing a newly formed embryo from implanting in the womb. The baby then starves to death. Because there's no implantation, the woman's body never knows it was pregnant. She will never get a positive pregnancy test. She won't miss her period. But her baby died all the same.

Now, that's a very serious issue! I would certainly want to know if I were causing my children to die, and I'm sure you do too. So why isn't this commonly known? Shouldn't women be informed about all the risks?

If you ask most ob-gyns or other doctors, they will tell you that hormonal contraceptives and IUDs are purely contraceptive. They will say they don't cause abortions, and cannot do so. However, there's a very clever trick that allows them to say this. They don't count the first few days of a baby's life. Let me explain.

The evidence from science clearly shows that human life begins at fertilization. When egg and sperm join, the resulting single-celled zygote is a separate and distinct individual with all the genetic material of a complete human organism and the ability to grow and develop his or her own body into adulthood. This child is already either male or female. The hair and eye color and many other traits are already set. The zygote needs only nutrients and the right environment to enable him or her to grow, just like any other child does.

During the trip down the fallopian tube to the uterus, the zygote divides several times until it forms a small ball of cells called a blastocyst. Again, this blastocyst is a distinct human individual. The scientific terms like zygote, embryo, and blastocyst are just stages of growth that all humans go through just like infant, toddler, adolescent, or adult.

The blastocyst is the stage that implants in the womb. This process of implantation occurs from 6-12 days after fertilization. Implantation cannot occur unless there is a living human child present. It is the blastocyst that initiates implantation. The mother's uterus has a thick, highly vascular layer of tissue called the endometrium on the inside surface and the tiny blastocyst must burrow into this tissue and attach to a blood vessel to begin forming a placenta in cooperation with the mother's tissues. The placenta is the organ that gives nutrients to the baby from the mother's blood supply and produces the hormones that will tell her body that a baby is present so that she does not shed the uterine lining through menstruation and instead begins making changes to support her growing child.

Because the baby must travel down the fallopian tube and attach to the uterine lining before getting any nutrients, those first few days of life are a little rough. The egg must be large and have stores of nutrients in order to feed the growing embryo during this time period. By the time the baby gets to the uterus, he needs food. The implantation process is a time crunch to get connected in time, before precious stores of nutrients run out. 

Those first few days of life, before implantation, that baby is alive. Yet back in 1965, pregnancy was redefined to begin at implantation rather than fertilization. So there are 6-12 days when a woman's body contains her living child's body and yet modern doctors don't count her as pregnant because the baby hasn't implanted in the womb yet.

That seems misleading, right? Why would we count pregnancy as beginning at implantation rather than the creation of the child? In times past, pregnancy was synonymous with the old-fashioned term "with child." It meant a woman was carrying a child inside her. So if she's not pregnant, you would think that means there's no baby inside her. That's the way people tend to think about it. Yet with this change of definition, people have been misled to believe that there's no baby inside her during those 6-12 days before implantation.

The really startling fact about this change of definition was that it was intended to mislead people about how birth control works. You see, hormonal birth control - specifically the combination birth control pill - had just been approved for use as a contraceptive in 1960. In the 1950's, female hormones were available to treat menstrual irregularities, but not for use as a contraceptive even though it was known to work as contraception. With the advent of an effective contraceptive pill which could potentially prevent implantation also, it was argued that counting pregnancy as beginning at implantation would be helpful in encouraging the use of the new birth control pill among women. 

Even Wikipedia (not exactly known for its honesty on controversial matters) admits that this was the motivation:

"In 1959, Dr. Bent Boving suggested that the word "conception" should be associated with the process of implantation instead of fertilization. Some thought was given to possible societal consequences, as evidenced by Boving's statement that "the social advantage of being considered to prevent conception rather than to destroy an established pregnancy could depend on something so simple as a prudent habit of speech." In 1965, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) adopted Boving’s definition: "conception is the implantation of a fertilized ovum.""

In short, it was considered "prudent" to tell women that the birth control pill only prevents pregnancy and not that it can end the life of a child. In order to do that, they defined pregnancy to begin at implantation so as to hide the fact that human children who had not yet been implanted could be killed by this new "contraceptive." If pregnancy has not yet begun because the baby has not implanted, then there was no abortion. Thus, preventing implantation is not counted as abortion on a technicality, due to this faulty definition of pregnancy, despite the fact that it does kill a human individual.

The potential for ending young human lives with hormonal contraceptives has been known for decades and covered up with misleading definitions. There are several other problems with hormonal contraceptives as well, but this is the most serious moral issue. The hormones in birth control make the uterus inhospitable for a baby to implant and thus can cause an early abortion by preventing implantation.
In fairness, this is not the main mode of action. There are three mechanisms by which hormonal birth control works. The main mechanism is to prevent ovulation. If no egg is released, there can be no conception. This mechanism is truly contraceptive by preventing conception. The secondary mechanism is to thicken cervical secretion to impede sperm motility. If sperm do not reach the egg, then no conception occurs. However, the third mechanism works as a backup in case the first two mechanisms fail (which they sometimes do). The uterine lining is thinned by the hormones and becomes less able to care for an implanting child. A thin lining means less blood flow and difficulty in connecting to a blood vessel. If an egg is released and fertilized, then the new child will usually fail to implant in the womb. The baby then starves and dies. There is no way of knowing which is happening each month for any particular woman.

Here are some secular health sites that discuss the mechanisms for hormonal birth control. It is well-known that the uterine lining is affected and may prevent implantation. In fact, one of the main beneficial effects they tout for birth control pills is that they thin the uterine lining and produce lighter periods or even none at all in some women. A thinner uterine lining means a baby cannot implant and get the nutrients he needs.
"The hormones in the Pill can also sometimes affect the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for an egg to attach to the wall of the uterus."
Kids Health

"Birth control pills contain synthetic hormones that work to prevent pregnancy. These hormones can stop ovulation and make it more difficult for sperm to enter your uterus. They can also alter your uterine lining, which can reduce the likelihood of implantation."

"The pill also thickens cervical mucus so the sperm cannot reach the egg. It makes the lining of the uterus unreceptive to the implantation of a fertilized egg."

The abortifacient potential of the combination birth control pill is shared by all hormonal contraceptives because they all contain the same progestin hormone that thins the uterine lining. This includes the regular birth control pill, the mini pill, the implant, the ring, the patch, the depo shot, and hormonal IUDs. All of these have the same mechanisms. They all contain progestin. They all thin the uterine lining. They can all prevent a human embryo from implanting in the womb.

It's not just hormonal birth control that can be abortifacient though. The copper IUD (Paraguard) can also prevent implantation and thus kill children. There are two types of IUDs - hormonal and copper. The hormonal type works just like other hormonal contraceptives. The copper one is often chosen by women specifically because it doesn't have the female hormones, with their sometimes harmful side effects. Yet the abortifacient side effect remains.

The copper in the copper IUD does kill sperm as the primary mechanism, but it also inflames the lining of the uterus and makes it inhospitable to an embryo, if fertilization were to occur. It does appear that preventing fertilization occurs more often, but killing an embryo can occur on occasion. Again, we don't know how often each mechanism is occurring in any particular woman.

Take a look at these scholarly sources that verify that all IUDs can be deadly to a human embryo:

"All IUDs induce a local inflammatory reaction that disturbs the functioning of the endometrium and myometrium and changes the microenvironment of the uterine cavity. Moreover, these effects alter signaling between uterus and ovary. The entire genital tract seems affected, at least in part because of luminal transmission of fluids accumulating in the uterine lumen. Copper or progesterone-releasing IUDs may attenuate or accentuate the inflammatory response, disturb the physiology of the gametes in the female genital tract, or destroy the viability of the embryos or endometrial receptivity to implantation." (Emphasis added)

"All intrauterine devices (IUDs) that have been tested experimentally or clinically induce a local inflammatory reaction of the endometrium whose cellular and humoral components are expressed in the tissue and the fluid filling the uterine cavity. ... In the human, the entire genital tract appears affected due to luminal transmission of the noxa that accumulates in the uterine lumen. This affects the function and viability of gametes, decreasing the rate of fertilization and lowering the chances of survival of any embryo that may be formed, before it reaches the uterus." (Emphasis added)

Note that you have to read the fine print carefully on this issue because a lot of resources will tell you that IUDs are not abortifacient because the primary mechanism is to prevent fertilization. While it's true that the primary mechanism prevents fertilization, an occasional abortion is ignored, yet is very much an important moral issue that should be considered. They skip over that part on purpose in order to persuade women to use such devices. If you look at the scientific literature, they do admit that IUDs, including the copper one, can kill an embryo if fertilization does occur.

If we believe every human life is sacred, then we need to show that in our actions. I could never take hormonal contraceptives or use IUDs because of the risk of killing my child. There are other ways to prevent pregnancy that don't have this moral stain.

Now, it should be mentioned here that there are sometimes other uses of female hormones besides contraceptive use. The birth control pill and other female hormones are sometimes used to regulate a woman's cycle, treat PCOS, raise abnormally low estrogen levels, or similar medical uses. This is distinct from using these hormone treatments as contraception. It might be the same pill in a lot of cases, but the reason for use is very different. 

Still, these women need to be aware of the risks of causing an early child death when they use these hormonal treatments in order to make an informed decision. If the hormone treatment is needed, they may want to use a barrier method as a backup, to be sure to prevent fertilization. Or they may want to look at other options for treatment. If they're past childbearing age or otherwise infertile, this may not even be an issue for some women. But the information should be available so that they understand the risks. There's also a difference in the morality of taking a necessary medical treatment that has a small risk of causing an abortion versus taking hormonal contraceptives for their contraceptive purpose and taking on that risk of abortion when there is no medical necessity for the woman. These factors take some careful moral reasoning and should not be ignored.

There is one more objection that some will use to argue for these birth control methods. It goes like this. A large fraction - estimated from 10-40% - of human embryos will die naturally even without these birth control methods. In fact, they will even claim that since these methods prevent so many fertilization events, the total number of babies dying goes down. Yet this does not justify occasionally killing human babies. 

When deaths occur naturally, that's tragic, but we aren't responsible for them. People dying of natural causes does not make it okay to kill them, either intentionally or through negligence. When we intervene to control fertility by choosing methods which can be deadly to some babies, we are morally responsible for the outcomes in ways that don't apply to natural deaths. 

As an analogy, suppose there was a nursing home that cared for the elderly, but occasionally gave some of them a lethal injection. Yet the rest of the time, they such a great job at giving the rest of the patients excellent care that, compared to other nursing homes, their death rate was a little lower overall. Would you consider that a good facility? I would hope not. Saving some lives with great care doesn't mean they can now kill a few people. They don't have that right.

Using these abortifacient birth control methods is a similar situation with the statistics. They might prevent some natural deaths by preventing the fertilization in the first place, but they also cause deaths. And because we intervened to use the method, we are responsible for the deaths we cause.

Now, for many of you, you didn't know. You weren't intending to kill any babies. And you're probably upset that no one has told you this before. It's not right that this information is kept from women with sneaky definitions designed to conceal the truth. 

But now you know. You're now responsible for what you know and what you do with that information.

1 comment:

  1. This past Wednesday my wife was working out at the gym with her female trainer and the topic of birth control came up. Somehow the conversation of contraception came up. My wife revealed to her trainer that she does not take birth control because it is an abortifacient. Apparently the trainer had a shocked look on her face and didn't know this. The general population is being mislead on so many things including contraception and abortion.