Does the Birth Control Pill
Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM)
2229 East Burnside #23
Gresham, OR 97030
Phone 503-663-6481; Fax 503-663-2292
Intrauterine Versus Ectopic Pregnancy Ratios
Dr. Walter Larimore is an Associate Clinical Professor of Family Medicine
who has written over 150 medical articles in a wide variety of journals. Dr.
Larimore, in a February 26, 1998 email to me, stated that if the Pill has no negative
effect on the implantation process, then we should expect its reduction in the
percentage of normal intrauterine pregnancies to equal its reduction in the percentage
of extrauterine or ectopic (including tubal) pregnancies.
However, Dr. Larimore pointed out something highly significant––that published
data from all of the studies dealing with this issue indicate that the ratio of
extrauterine to intrauterine pregnancies among Pill-takers significantly exceeds
that of non-Pill-takers. The five studies cited by Dr. Larimore show an increased
risk of ectopic pregnancies in Pill takers who get pregnant is 70% to 1390%
higher than non-Pill takers who get pregnant.
[The respective rates of increase in the five studies are 70%, 80%, 330%,
350% and 1390%. The studies, cited by Dr. Larimore in his email, are as follows:
(1) "A multinational case-control study of ectopic pregnancy," Clin Reprod
Fertil 1985;3:131-143; (2) Mol BWJ, Ankum WM, Bossuyt PMM, and Van der
Veen F, "Contraception and the risk of ectopic pregnancy: a meta analysis,"
Contraception 1995;52:337-341; (3) Job-Spira N, Fernandez H, Coste J,
Papiernik E, Spira A, "Risk of Chlamydia PID and oral contraceptives," J Am
Med Assoc 1990;264:2072-4; (4) Thorburn J, Berntsson C, Philipson M, Lindbolm
B, "Background factors of ectopic pregnancy: Frequency distribution in a case-control
study," Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 1986;23:321-331; (5) Coste
J, Job-Spira N, Fernandez H, Papiernik E, Spira A, "Risk factors for ectopic
pregnancy: a case-control study in France, with special focus on infectious factors,"
Am J Epidemiol 1991;133:839-49.]
What accounts for the Pill inhibiting intrauterine pregnancies at a disproportionately
greater ratio than it inhibits extrauterine pregnancies? Dr. Larimore,
who is a member of Focus on the Family's Physicians Resource Council, believes
the most likely explanation is that while the Pill does nothing to prevent
a newly-conceived child from implanting in the wrong place (i.e. anywhere
besides the endometrium) it may sometimes do something to prevent
him from implanting in the right place (i.e. the endometrium).
This evidence puts a significant burden of proof on anyone who denies the
Pill's capacity to cause early abortions. If there is an explanation of the data that
is more plausible, or equally plausible, what is it?
Dr. Larimore came to this issue with
significant vested interests in believing the best about the birth control
pill, having prescribed it for years. When he researched it intensively over
an eighteen month period, in what he described to me as a "gut wrenching"
process that involved sleepless nights, he came to the conclusion that in
good conscience he could no longer prescribe hormonal contraceptives, including
the Pill, the minipill, DepoProvera and Norplant.
Dr. Larimore also told me that when he has presented this evidence to audiences
of secular physicians, there has been little or no resistance to it. But when
he has presented it to Christian physicians there has been substantial resistance.
Why? Perhaps because secular physicians do not care as much whether the Pill
prevents implantation and therefore tend to be objective in interpreting the evidence.
Christian physicians very much do not want to believe the Pill causes
early abortions, and therefore tend to resist the evidence. This is understandable.
Nonetheless, we should not permit what we want to believe to distract us from
what the evidence indicates we should believe.
Dr. Paul Hayes, a prolife Ob/Gyn in Lincoln, Nebraska, pointed me to Leon
Speroff's and Philip Darney's authoritative text A Clinical Guide for Contraception
(Williams & Wilkins, 1992). Dr. Hayes calls Dr. Speroff, of the Oregon
Health Sciences University in Portland, "the nation's premier contraceptive expert
and advocate." Speroff's text, written for physicians, says this on page 40:
"The progestin in the combination pill produces an endometrium which
is not receptive to ovum implantation, a decidualized bed with exhausted
and atrophied glands. The cervical mucus becomes thick and impervious to
sperm transport. It is possible that progestational influences on secretion and
peristalsis within the fallopian tube provide additional contraceptive effects.
In an email to me dated February 22, 1997, Dr. Hayes pointed out a semantic
aspect of Dr. Speroff's statement which I, not being a physician, wouldn't
"I was struck dumb when I read this, at the fact that Dr. Speroff would
expect me, as a doctor, to accept the 'implantation' of an 'ovum.' Call it a fertilized
ovum, or a blastocyst, or a zygote, or any one of a number of other dehu-manizing
names for a baby, but don't warrant to me, in a textbook for doctors,
that what implants is just an ovum!"
Dr. Hayes's point is that "ovum" used without a qualifier always means an
unfertilized egg, and that Dr. Speroff is misusing the term consciously or unconsciously
to minimize the taking of human life inherently involved in the preventing
of implantation. This type of semantic alteration is common in later stages, as
demonstrated by references to "terminating a pregnancy" instead of "killing a
child." It is further illustrated in the fact that Dr. Speroff includes as a form of
"contraception" the destruction of an already conceived person.
In an interview conducted by Denny Hartford, director of Vital Signs Ministries,
Pharmacist Larry Frieders, who is also Vice-president of Pharmacists for
Life, said this:
"Obviously, the one "back-up mechanism"
[of the Pill] that we're most concerned with is the one that changes the
woman's body in such a way that if there is a new life, that tiny human loses
the ability to implant and then grow and be nourished by the mother. The
facts are clear-we've all known them intellectually. I learned them in school.
I had to answer those questions on my state board pharmacy exam. The problem
was getting that knowledge from my intellect down to where it became part
of who I am. I had to accept that I was participating in the sale and distribution
of a product that was, in fact, causing the loss of life. ("The New Abortionists,"
Life Advocate, March 1994, page 26.)
Later in the same interview, Hartford asked world famous fertility specialist
Dr. Thomas Hilgers, "Are there any birth control pills out there that do not
have this potential to abort a developing child?" Dr. Hilgers answered,
"There are none! At my last count in looking at the Physicians Desk Reference
. . . there were 44 different types of birth control pills. . . . and they have
different concentrations of chemicals that make them work. None of these so-called
birth control pills has a mechanism which is completely contraceptive.
Put the other way around, all birth control pills available have a mechanism
which disturbs or disintegrates the lining of the uterus to the extent that the
possibility of abortion exists when breakthrough ovulation occurs. (Life Advocate,
March 1994, page 28-29.)
Sources indicate not only that Pill-induced endometrial changes prevent
implantation (what I will call the Pill's first abortive effect), but, and this is a
second abortive effect, that even if they do allow implantation they can prevent
the proper nourishment or maintenance of the new child, resulting in a premature
end of the pregnancy. (e.g. Stephen G. Somkuti, et al., "The effect of oral contraceptive
pills on markers of endometrial receptivity," Fertility and Sterility, Volume
65, #3, March 1996, page 484-88; Chowdhury and Joshi, "Escape Ovulation
in Women Due to the Missing of Low Dose Combination Oral Contraceptive
Pills," Contraception, September 1980, page 241-247.)
In My Body, My Health (Stewart, Guess, Stewart, Hatcher; Clinician's
Edition, Wiley Medical Publications, 1979, page 169-70), the authors point to a
third abortive potential of the Pill:
"Estrogen and progestin may also alter the pattern of muscle contractions
in the tubes and uterus. This may interfere with implantation by speeding up
the fertilized egg's travel time so that it reaches the uterus before it is mature
enough to implant."
This is the same "contraceptive" effect Dr. Speroff referred to as "peristalsis
within the fallopian tube."
In its 1984 publication "Facts About Oral Contraceptives," the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services stated,
"Both kinds of pills . . . make it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant,
by causing changes in fallopian tube contractions and in the uterine lining."
These changes in fallopian tube contractions can cause a failure to implant.
This third abortive effect is distinct from the first two, both of which are caused
by changes to the uterine lining. (Those who remain unconvinced about the
abortive effect of Pill-caused endometrial changes must also address the separate
but significant issue of tubal peristalsis.)
There's a fourth potential abortive threat, pointed out to me by a couple
who stopped using their pills after reading the package insert. I have that insert in
front of me. It concerns Desogen, a combination pill produced by Organon. Under
the heading "Pregnancy Due to Pill Failure," it states:
"The incidence of pill failure resulting in pregnancy is approximately one
percent (i.e., one pregnancy per 100 women per year) if taken every day as
directed, but more typical failure rates are about 3%. If failure does occur, the
risk to the fetus is minimal.
Exactly what is this risk to the fetus? I asked this of Dr. William Toffler of
the Oregon Health Sciences University, who is also a member of Focus on the
Family's Physician's Resource Council. Dr. Toffler informed me that the hormones
in the Pill, progestin and estrogen, can sometimes have a harmful effect on
an already implanted child. The problem is, since women do not know they are
pregnant in the earliest stages, they will continue to take the Pill at least one more
time, if not two or more (especially if cycles are irregular). This creates the risk
the leaflet refers to. So not only is the pre-implanted child at risk, but so is an
already implanted child who is subjected to the Pill's hormones.
The risk is called "minimal." But what does this mean? If someone was
about to give your child a chemical and they assured you there was a "minimal
risk," would you allow them to proceed without investigating to find out exactly
what was meant by "minimal"? Wouldn't you ask whether there was some alternative
treatment without this risk? Rather than be reassured by the term "minimal,"
a parent might respond, "I didn't know that by taking the Pill I caused any
risk to a baby-so when you tell me the risk is 'minimal' you don't reassure me,
you alarm me."
There is still a fifth risk, which is distinct in that it applies to children
conceived after a woman stops taking the Pill:
There is some indication that there may be a prolonged effect of the oral
contraceptives on both the endometrium and the cervix after a woman has
ceased taking the pill. There may well be a greater likelihood of miscarriage in
that period also as a result of some chromosomal abnormalities. . . . It is worth
noting that the consumer advice from the manufacturers cautions that pregnancy
should be avoided in the first three months after ceasing the combined
oral contraceptive. (Nicholas Tonti-Rilippini, "The Pill: Abortifacient or Contraceptive?
A Literature Review," Linacre Quarterly, February 1995, page 8-9.)
Why should pregnancy be avoided until three months after a woman has
stopped using the Pill? One physician told me it's because the Pill produces an
environment that threatens the welfare of a child, and that environment takes
months to return to normal. If those effects are still considered a risk up to
three months after the Pill was last taken, it also confirms the risks to both the
pre- and post-implantation child while the Pill is still being used. Another physician
suggested that abnormal eggs are more likely after Pill use and that is one
reason for the warning.
(This should serve as a warning to
couples who choose to stop taking the pill out of concern for its abortifacient
potential. If they remain sexually active, they should use a nonabortive
contraceptive for three months to allow time for the endometrium to return
to normal. Otherwise, since the abortive mechanism may remain operative after
the contraceptive mechanisms no longer are, for that brief period they could
actually increase their chances of an abortion.)
In June, 1996 the Food and Drug Administration announced a new use for
standard combination birth control pills:
"Two high doses taken within two to three days of intercourse can prevent
pregnancy, the FDA scientists said. Doctors think the pills probably work by
preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus. ("FDA
panel: Birth control pills safe as morning after drug," The Virginian-Pilot, June
29, 1996, A1, A6.)"
On February 24, 1997, the FDA approved the use of high doses of combination
birth control pills as "emergency contraception" (Peter Modica, "FDA
Nod to 'Morning-After' Pill Is Lauded," Medical Tribune News Service, February
26, 1997). The article explains,
"The morning-after pill refers to a regimen of standard birth control pills
taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
The pills prevent pregnancy by inhibiting a fertilized egg from implanting
itself in the uterus and developing into a fetus.
Of course, the pills do not "prevent pregnancy" since pregnancy begins at
conception, not implantation. Acting as if pregnancy begins at implantation takes
the emphasis off the baby's objective existence and puts it on the mother's
endometrium's role in sustaining the child that has already been created within
her. As World magazine (March 8, 1997, page 9) points out, "In reality the pill
regimen-designed to block a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus-
aborts a pregnancy that's already begun."
It is significant that this "morning after pill" is in fact nothing but a combination
of several standard birth control pills taken in high dosages. When the
announcement was made, the uninformed public probably assumed that the high
dosage makes birth control pills do something they were otherwise incapable of
doing. But the truth is, it simply increases the chances of doing what it already
sometimes does-cause an abortion.
In an April 29, 1997 USA Today cover story (page 1A), "Docs spread word:
Pill works on morning after," Marilyn Elias wrote,
"U.S. gynecologists are launching a major nationwide campaign to make
sure women know about the best-kept morning-after contraceptive secret: common
birth control pills. . . . Some oral contraceptives may be taken after intercourse-
two in the first dose up to 72 hours after sex, then two more 12 hours
later-and will prevent 75% of pregnancies . . . Critics call the morning-after
method de facto abortion, but Zinberg says the pills work before an embryo
implants in the uterus so there's no abortion."
This is another illustration of the role of semantics in minimizing our perception
of the true nature of chemical abortions. The truth is these pregnancies
aren't prevented, they are terminated. It's semantic gymnastics to redefine abortion
in such a way that killing the "fertilized egg" doesn't qualify.
Life does not begin at implantation, it begins at conception. To suggest that
a fertilized egg is not a living person just because she has not yet settled into her
home (the endometrium), and therefore it's fine to make her home hostile to her
life, is like saying the homeless are not really people since they aren't living in a
house, and it's therefore all right to burn down homes they might otherwise have
lived in, and to leave them out in the cold to die.
Consider the following in a medical journal article that responds to the
question, "Must a Catholic hospital inform a rape victim of the availability of the
"Diethylstilbestrol, and other estrogens used after unprotected coitus, acts
to prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum in the uterine mucosa . . . Thus
these drugs are neither contraceptives nor abortifacients. From a medical viewpoint,
pregnancy begins at the completion of implantation, and the accurate way
to describe the action of the morning-after pill is "pregnancy interception." (David
B. Brushwood, American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, February 1990, volume
47, page 396.)"
"Pregnancy interception" is still another term that obscures what really
happens in a chemical abortion. Define pregnancy however you wish, but it does
not change the fact there is a living child prior to implantation.
Webster's 1984 ninth edition New Collegiate Dictionary defines the word
conception as "the act of becoming pregnant." Yet many sources I have consulted,
including the above, admit the Pill can allow conception and prevent implantation,
but insist on describing this as "preventing pregnancy."
The truth is, whatever prevents implantation kills the same unique human
being as any later abortion procedure. The terms this is couched in may make it
sound better, but they cannot change what it really is.
Is there any evidence refuting the abortive potential of the Pill? I have
searched far and wide to find such evidence myself, and have also asked a number
of physicians to provide me with any they have or know of. What I have
managed to find, I will now present.
In several cases, I deliberately do not state the names of Christian physicians
and organizations who have written some of the letters and articles I am
citing. I know this is unusual, but I am determined not to create unnecessary
hostility or disunity. I have no desire to put any brother or sister in Christ on the
spot, nor do I want to run the risk of making them more defensive of their position.
In cases where I have not mentioned names, I must ask the reader to trust
that I have the actual documents in front of me.
"Advances in Oral Contraception" in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine
(January 1983, page 100 ff.), is a question and answer session with eight
physicians. The prolife physician who gave this to her pastor underlined statements
that in her mind refute the notion that the Pill causes abortions. This is one
Do the OCs with 30 micrograms of estrogen act primarily by preventing
implantation rather than suppressing ovulation?
Dr. Christie: "Our studies in Europe and Canada showed that the 150/30
pill's main mode of action is inhibition of ovulation."
This statement is not in conflict with the evidence I've presented. No one
disputes whether the inhibition of ovulation is the Pill's main mode of action,
only whether preventing implantation is a secondary mode. A more significant
segment of the same article is this:
Are factors besides anovulation [not ovulating] affected by the contraceptive
action of the Pill?
Dr. Christie: Yes-cervical mucus, maybe nidation, the endometrium, so
it's not in the appropriate condition for receiving a fertilized ovum. The authorities
agree that with the LH and FSH changes, no ovulation occurs; the egg isn't
there to be fertilized.
Dr. Goldzieher: Some time ago Pincus found, when studying Enovid 5
and 10, that conceptions occurred with these pills. To me his evidence indicates
that there must not be much of an antiimplantation effect on the endometrium if
a woman can skip a very-high-dose OC for a few days and become pregnant. If
there is an antiimplantation effect, it certainly is absent in some cases.
These statements are significant, but they only qualify the mountain of other
evidence, they do not refute it. Dr. Christie acknowledges the antiimplantation
effect of the Pill, but says that with the proper chemical changes no ovulation
occurs. He is surely not claiming that these chemical changes always happen in
the intended way, nor is he denying that ovulations occur among Pill-takers. He
is well aware that pregnancies occur, as Dr. Goldzieher confirms in the very next
sentence. Obviously, for every measurable pregnancy there are a number of breakthrough
Dr. Goldzieher, whose own work, cited elsewhere in this booklet, acknowledges
the antiimplantation effect, affirms that "it certainly is absent in some cases."
Ironically, this quotation assumes the very thing the physician giving the letter to
her pastor was trying to assure him wasn't true. When you say the effect of preventing
implantation is absent in some cases, you are implying it is present in
some cases. (In any case, a physician wrote to me that the high-dose Enovid
Goldzieher refers to is no longer made.)
Again, no one claims the Pill's diminishing of the endometrium always makes
implantation impossible. Obviously it doesn't. The issue is whether it sometimes
does. That plants can and do grow through cracks in driveways does not negate
the fact that they will more likely grow in the tilled, fertile soil of the
garden. The Pill's changing the endometrium from fertile to inhospitable
does not always result in an abortion, but sometimes it does. And "sometimes"
is all it takes.
I have before me a four page letter from a prolife physician, assuring the
recipient that the Pill, Norplant and Depo-Provera are not abortifacients, while
RU-486, the "morning after pill" and the "minipill" are. The letter is well written,
but it is missing a crucial element-it does not cite a single study or produce
any evidence whatsoever to back up any of its claims.
In the absence of any such evidence, I am forced to conclude that this letter
is simply a sincere expression of the physician's personal beliefs. Unfortunately,
beliefs do not constitute evidence.
When I submitted to him a half dozen of the sources I've cited in this booklet,
a prolife physician wrote this to me:
"It is known fact that 6% of women on BCPs will become pregnant while
on the pill, meaning that cervical mucous failed, ovulation occurred, and implantation
was successful. This implies that when BCPs don't work, it is because
they totally fail, and that when mechanisms 1 and 2 don't work, implantation
is not prevented by the BCPs causing an early abortion. If I believed BCPs
worked by causing abortion, I wouldn't recommend them. I firmly believe that
when they work, they work by preventing ovulation and by creation of thick
I do not question this physician's sincerity, but I do question his logic. We
do not know how often mechanism number one, two or three actually work. We
only know that sometimes all three fail. But because number one and two sometimes
fail, no one therefore concludes that they always fail. So why conclude that
because number three sometimes fails, therefore it always fails?
How can we look at a known pregnancy, which proves the failure of all
three mechanisms, then conclude that number one and number two normally
work, but number three never works? The logic escapes me. If number three
didn't involve an abortion, I don't think anyone would deny it happens. It appears
this denial is not prompted by any real evidence, but by the desire the evidence
not be true.
A number of people have sent me responses from Christian organizations
they have received after writing to ask if the Pill really causes abortions. These
letters raise various arguments which I address in the "Objections" section at the
end of this booklet.
One of these letters, dated October 27, 1995, states that the Pill "rarely, if
ever, permits conception."
The term "if ever" is certainly false,
since the BCP manufacturers themselves admit 3% of those taking the Pill
get pregnant in any given year. In fact, recent research indicates that figure
may be considerably higher-up to 4% for "good compliers" and 8% for "poor
compliers" (Potter, "How Effective Are Contraceptives? The determination
and measurement of pregnancy rates," Obstetrics
and Gynecology 1996; 135:13S-23S.)
The letter goes on to say that "criticism of oral contraception heaps needless
guilt upon women who literally cannot use any other method of contraception-
guilt which seems especially unnecessary . . ."
The letter does not deal with the issue of what is true nearly as much as the
issue of how bad some people feel when they hear that the Pill causes abortions.
The letter, from a fine organization, goes on to say this:
"Our programming staff has come to the conclusion that it might be wisest to
avoid further discussions of this subject on the air. The last time we offered such a
broadcast, the ensuing mail revealed how very wide is the array of opinions that
exists among committed believers is this area. . . It seems we are bound to offend
someone as soon as we open our mouths, and we continue to receive criticism from
listeners with differing perspectives despite our attempts to present a balanced treatment
of the subject. This is why we have no plans for future programs of this kind.
I believe the writer honestly thought he answered the inquiry. In fact, he did
little more than point out the variety of opinions within the Christian community,
without offering evidence to suggest which might be right. While the letter gave
the clear impression that the Pill does not cause abortions, it did not cite any
evidence to indicate it does not, and did nothing to refute the substantial evidence
that it does.
Another letter, written August 3, 1995, by a different person at the same
organization, was emphatic:
We have consulted with medical advisors who have reviewed a wealth of
competent, scientific research on this issue. In their opinion, these studies suggest
that the Pill does not act as an abortifacient; rather it works solely by preventing
ovulation. Even in the rare event that conception takes place, they do
not believe that it is accurate to attribute the possibility of the conceptus failing
to implant to the action of the Pill.
Some recipients of such a letter will come away assured they now know the
truth about the Pill-it never causes abortions. Unfortunately, while sounding
credible, the letter makes a provably false statement (that the Pill "works solely
by preventing ovulation"). Furthermore, it does not offer a single reference to so
much as a quote, name, book, article, lecture or any source whatsoever to back
up its claims.
We called the organization to inquire concerning the identity of any of this
"wealth of competent, scientific research" that supports this definitive statement that
the Pill doesn't cause abortions. I was very eager to examine such material. Both
writers of these letters are no longer with this organization, and the person we spoke
with was not aware of any such research and could not point us toward it. (Certainly,
if such information exists, the research departments of the Pill manufacturers are not
aware of it. If they were, they would cite it when called by people like myself whose
minds would be relieved by any evidence that the Pill doesn't cause abortions.)
Though I am not questioning integrity or motives, it is particularly unfortunate
when a Christian organization gives incomplete, inaccurate and misleading
information to those inquiring about the Pill because they sincerely
want to avoid jeopardizing the lives of unborn children.
Writing in a popular women's magazine, a Christian family physician
states that some people have expressed concern that non-barrier birth control
methods may prevent implantation. He then says this:
"While not at all like the deliberate destruction of the growing fetus that
occurs during a "therapeutic" abortion, this interruption of the earliest stages
of human life could be considered an unintentional abortion." (Today's Christian
Woman, July/August 1995, pages 64-65.)
"Could be considered an unintentional abortion"? How could it be considered
anything else? "Not at all like the deliberate destruction of the growing
fetus"? It may not be deliberate, but that doesn't make it utterly unlike later
abortions. It is unlike them in intent, but exactly like them in effect-both kill a child. (The child who dies is also "growing," just like the fetus in later abortions.)
The same physician says this concerning the Pill:
"The possibility of an "unfriendly uterus" preventing pregnancy has long
been mentioned in the standard FDA-approved product literature for oral contraceptives,
but a number of researchers aren't convinced this takes place.
Overall, the likelihood of such unintentional abortions appears to be extremely
remote, if not infinitesimal."
The author does not cite studies from any of these unconvinced researchers,
nor does he identify them. The only evidence he presents for abortions
being "extremely remote" is that "the fertilized egg actually appears to be quite
proficient at burrowing into the lining of the uterus." He says this is demonstrated
by women who become pregnant after missing a single dose of the Pill,
and even after not missing any at all.
Once again, the fact that implantation sometimes takes place despite the
Pill's creation of an inhospitable endometrium in no way negates the fact that it
occurs more often in a hospitable endometrium.
I was sent by one reader a photocopied page from an article, but unfortunately
the name and date of the publication isn't included and I have been unable
to trace it. The article is an excerpt from a speech by a prolife physician
named Dr. Mastroianni:
"It's also important," Dr. Mastroianni
added, "when talking about oral contraception, to dispel any idea that the
pill acts as an abortifacient. Propaganda has led some people to believe
that somehow the pill works after fertilization, and that's further from
the truth than anything I can think of. The pill works by inhibiting ovulation,
as well as by thickening the cervical mucus and therefore inhibiting sperm
This confident claim is made without the offer of any evidence to support it.
Leveling the accusation of "propaganda" is not the same as presenting evidence,
or refuting it.
When the scientific and medical sources, including not just reference books
but studies reported in medical journals over decades, consistently affirm there is
an anti-implantation effect of the Pill, how can a physician state this to be "further
from the truth than anything I can think of"? When these sources consistently
and repeatedly conclude there are at least three ways the Pill works-one
of which is clearly abortive-how can someone definitively say there are really
I do not consider this quotation from a well-meaning prolife physician as
evidence of anything but the human tendency to deny something we do not wish
to believe. (If a reader knows Dr. Mastroianni, and he does have evidence for his
beliefs, I would very much like to see it, and will gladly revise this booklet accordingly.)
One physician presented me with a study of Norplant, which he believes
calls into question the concept of an inhospitable endometrium. (Sheldon J. Segal,
et. al, "Norplant implants: the mechanism of contraceptive action," Fertility and
Sterility, 1991, pages 274-277.) The authors state,
"As with other hormonal contraceptives, Norplant use is associated with
suppressed endometrial development . . . Ovulation inhibition is the primary
mechanism of Norplant's contraceptive action. Ovulation may occur, however,
in about 45% of the cycles of long-term users of Norplant. . . . at least two
alternative mechanisms can be postulated . . . the hostility of the cervical mucus
to sperm penetration, and impaired maturation of the oocyte, rendering it
nonfertilizable because of low levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and LH
that occur during use of Norplant.
The authors believe that given their method of study "it would have been
possible to identify menstrual abortions if they had occurred." They state such
evidence was absent. The article ends by saying, "We conclude from these data
that postfertilization interruption of early pregnancy (menstrual abortion) does
not play a role in the mechanism of action of Norplant."
Because both contain progestin, the
physician who showed me the study felt the conclusion pertained not only
to Norplant, but the Pill. There are several problems here. First, the study
was done on Norplant, not the Pill. While both have progestin, they are not
the same product-Norplant's operative chemical is progestin only, while the
combination pill also contains estrogen. The chemical amounts, how they assimilate
into the body and other factors differ between the two products. This study's
results do not correspond to those of many other studies of Norplant, and
it may or may not be authenticated by further studies. In any case, studies
on Norplant and the Pill are not interchangeable.
Second, the fact remains that some women taking Norplant get pregnant.
Obviously, then, ovum are not always damaged, and are not always incapable of
being fertilized. Hence, the "damaged egg" mechanism, like all others, does not
Third, this study was done on only thirty-two women. This is too small a
sampling to reach definitive conclusions. Studies with small test groups may be
helpful as confirmations of established research, but they are not sufficient to
warrant significant changes in conclusions, apart from larger studies showing
them to be valid.
Fourth, if it has any pertinence at all to the Pill, which is uncertain, this
study would have to be weighed against all the other sources, not to mention
common sense, that connect an atrophied endometrium to a smaller likelihood of
implantation. All the Pill manufacturers, who have done by far the most research
on the matter, conclude that the Pill produces an inhospitable endometrium that
reduces the likelihood of implantation. It would take considerably more evidence
than this small study-and evidence directly pertaining to the Pill, not Norplant--
to stack up against the established evidence that the Pill causes abortions.
A strong statement against the idea that the Pill can cause abortions was
issued in January 1998, five months after the original printing of this booklet.
According to a January 30, 1998 email sent me by one of its circulators, the
statement "is a collaborative effort by several very active pro-life OB-GYN specialists,
and screened through about twenty additional OB-GYN specialists."
The statement is entitled "Birth Control Pills: Contraceptive or Abortifacient?" Those wishing to read it in its entirety, which I recommend, can find it at
our EPM web page. I have posted it there because
while I disagree with its major premise and various statements in it, I believe
it deserves a hearing.
The title is somewhat misleading, in that it implies there are only two ways
to look at the Pill: always a contraceptive or always an abortifacient. In fact, I
know of no one who believes it is always an abortifacient. There are only those
who believe it is always a contraceptive and never an abortifacient, and those
who believe it is usually a contraceptive and sometimes an abortifacient.
The paper opens with this statement:
"Currently the claim that hormonal contraceptives [birth control pills,
implants (Norplant), injectables (Depoprovera)] include an abortifacient mechanism
of action is being widely disseminated in the pro-life community. This
theory is emerging with the assumed status of "scientific fact," and is causing
significant confusion among both lay and medical pro-life people. With this
confusion in the ranks comes a significant weakening of both our credibility
with the general public and our effectiveness against the tide of elective abortion."
The question of whether the presentation of research and medical opinions,
such as those in this booklet, causes "confusion" is interesting. Does it cause
confusion, or does it bring to light pertinent information in an already existing
state of confusion? Would we be better off to uncritically embrace what we have
always believed than to face evidence that may challenge it?
Is our credibility and effectiveness weakened through presenting evidence
that indicates the Pill can cause abortions? I'll come back to this and related
objections later, but I think we need to commit ourselves to discovering and sharing
the truth regardless of whether it is well-received by the general public or the
The physicians' statement's major thesis is this-the idea that the Pill causes
a hostile endometrium is a myth:
Over time, the descriptive term "hostile endometrium" progressed to be
an unchallenged assumption, then to be quasi-scientific fact, and now, for some
in the pro-life community, to be a proof text. And all with no demonstrated
When I showed this to one professor of family medicine he replied, "This is
an amazing claim." Why? Because, he pointed out, it requires that every physician
who has directly observed the dramatic pill-induced changes in the endometrium,
and every textbook that refers to these changes, has been wrong all
along in believing what appears to be obvious: that when the zygote attaches
itself to the endometrium its chances of survival are greater if what it attaches to
is thick and rich in nutrients and oxygen than if it is not.
This is akin to announcing to a group of farmers that all these years they
have been wrong to believe the myth that rich fertilized soil is more likely to
foster and maintain plant life than thin eroded soil.
It could be argued that if anything may cause prolifers to lose credibility, at
least with those familiar with what the Pill does to the endometrium, it is to claim
the Pill does nothing to make implantation less likely.
The authors defend their position this way:
"[The blastocyst] has an invasive nature, with the demonstrated ability to
invade, find a blood supply, and successfully implant on various kinds of tissue,
whether "hostile," or even entirely "foreign" to its usual environment-
decidualized (thinned) endometrium, tubal epithelium (lining), ovarian epithelium
(covering), cervical epithelium (lining), even peritoneum (abdominal lining
cells) . . . . The presumption that implantation of a blastocyst is thwarted
by "hostile endometrium" is contradicted by the "pill pregnancies" we as physicians
This is very similar to the argument
of Dr. Struthers at Searle, the Pill-manufacturer. Unfortunately, it misses
the point, since the question is not whether the zygote sometimes implants
in the wrong place. Of course it does. The question, rather, is whether the
newly-conceived child's chances of survival are greater when it implants
in the right place (endometrium) that is thick and rich and full of nutrients
than in one which lacks these qualities because of the Pill. To point out
a blastocyst is capable of implanting in a fallopian tube or a thinned endometrium
is akin to pointing to a seed that begins to grow on asphalt or springs up
on the hard dry path. Yes, the seed is thereby shown to have an invasive
nature. But surely no one believes its chances of survival are as great on
a thin hard rocky path as in cultivated fertilized soil.
According to the statement signed by the twenty physicians, "The entire
'abortifacient' presumption, therefore, depends on 'hostile endometrium'." Actually
this isn't true, since one of the apparent abortifacient effects of the Pill is
what Dr. Leon Speroff and others refer to as peristalsis within the fallopian tube.
This effect speeds up the blastocyst's travel so it can reach the uterus before it's
mature enough to implant. Even if the endometrium was not altered to become
inhospitable, this effect could still cause abortions. (It would be accurate to say
that the abortifacient belief is based mainly, though not entirely, on the concept of
an inhospitable endometrium.)
In fact, one need not embrace the term "hostile" endometrium to believe the
Pill can cause abortions. It does not take a hostile or even an inhospitable endometrium
to account for an increase in abortions. It only takes a less hospitable
endometrium. Even if they feel "hostile" is an overstatement, can anyone seriously
argue that the Pill-transformed endometrium is not less hospitable to implantation
than the endometrium at its rich thick nutrient-laden peak in a normal
cycle uninfluenced by the Pill?
A professor of family medicine told me that until reading this statement he
had never heard, in his decades in the field, anyone deny the radical changes in
the endometrium caused by the Pill and the obvious implications this has for
reducing the likelihood of implantation. This is widely accepted as obvious and
self-evident. According to this physician, the fact that secular sources embrace
this reality and only prolife Christians are now rejecting it (in light of the recent
attention on the Pill's connection to abortions) suggests they may be swayed by
vested interests in the legitimacy of the Pill.
The paper states "there are no scientific studies that we are aware of which
substantiate this presumption [that the diminished endometrium is less conducive
to implantation]." But it doesn't cite any studies, or other evidence, that suggest
In fact, surprisingly, though the statement sent to me is five pages long it
contains not a single reference to any source that backs up any of its claims. If
observation and common sense have led people in medicine to a particular conclusion
over decades, should their conclusion be rejected out of hand without
citing specific research indicating it to be incorrect?
On which side does the burden of proof fall-the one that claims the radically
diminished endometrium inhibits implantation or the one that claims it doesn't?
The most potentially significant point made in the paper is this:
"The ectopic rate in the USA is about
1% of all pregnancies. Since an ectopic pregnancy involves a preimplantation
blastocyst, both the "on pill conception" and normal "non pill conception"
ectopic rate should be the same-about l% (unaffected by whether the endometrium
is "hostile" or "friendly.") Ectopic pregnancies in women on hormonal contraception
(except for the minipill) are practically unreported. This would suggest conception
on these agents is quite rare. If there are millions of "on-pill conceptions"
yearly, producing millions of abortions, (as some "BC pill is abortifacient"
groups allege), we would expect to see a huge increase in ectopics
in women on hormonal birth control. We don't. Rather, as noted above,
this is a rare occurrence.
The premise of this statement is right on target. It is exactly the premise
proposed by Dr. Walter Larimore, which I've already presented. While the
statement's premise is correct, its account of the data, unfortunately, is not. The
five studies pointed to by Dr. Larimore, cited earlier, clearly demonstrate the
statement is incorrect when it claims ectopic pregnancies in women on hormonal
contraception are "practically unreported" and "rare."
This booklet makes no claims as to the total numbers of abortions caused
by the Pill. But the statement signed by the twenty physicians affirms that if the Pill caused millions of abortions we would "expect to see a huge increase in
ectopics in women on hormonal birth control." In fact, that is exactly what we
do see-an increase that five major studies put between 70% and 1390%.
Ironically, when we remove the statement’s incorrect data about the ectopic
pregnancy rate and plug in the correct data, the statement supports the very
thing it attempts to refute. It suggests the Pill may indeed cause early
abortions, possibly a very large number of them.
I have been told that the above statement from prolife physicians was sent to
every prolife pregnancy center in the country in an attempt to reassure them
that the talk about the Pill sometimes causing abortions is inaccurate and
misguided. Unfortunately, the statement itself was poorly researched and
misleading. However, pregnancy centers receiving the statements did not know
this. Many of them were understandably impressed by the number of prolife
physicians agreeing to the statement. Unfortunately, it appears that very few of
these physicians actually researched the issue. They appear to have relied
almost completely on the sincerely believed but faulty or biased
research of a few.
Ironically, when we remove the statement's incorrect data about the ectopic
pregnancy rate and plug in the correct data, the statement supports the very
thing it attempts to refute. It suggests the Pill may indeed cause early abortions,
possibly a very large number of them.
Twenty-Six Prolife OB-GYN Specialists who believe the Pill causes abortions
In response to the strong statement put forth by twenty of
their wellrespected colleagues, another collaborative statement was issued at
the 1998 mid-winter gathering of the American Association of Prolife
Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG). Opening the debate, Dr. Pamela Smith
…it has become glaringly apparent that now is the time for us,
as an organization, to sail into the dangerous and uncharted waters that we have
perhaps intentionally avoided. These are the “waters” of prolife principles as
they relate to fertility control.
I have intentionally used the words “fertility control” rather
than contraception for a number of reasons. Foremost of which is the raging
moral, biological and scientific debate, almost exclusively within the prolife
community, as to whether the mechanism of certain fertility control measures are
contraceptive or abortifacient at a microscopic level.
The AAPLOG convention concluded with a document that includes the following
The undersigned [26 OB-GYN specialists] believe that the facts as detailed in
this document indicate the abortifacient nature of hormonal contraception. This
is supported by the scientific work of the Alan Guttmacher Institute which can,
in no way, be confused with a right-to-life organization. We also want to make
it clear that we have no desire to cause confusion and division among prolife
forces. However, we do want to make it clear that we do desire that all women
using the Pill are truthfully and fully informed about all its modes of action
A complete article entitled “Birth Control Pill: Abortifacient and
Contraceptive” by William F. Colliton, Jr., M.D., FACOG, which includes the
above statements can be found at the EPM web page www.epm.org/ 26doctor.html.
It should go without saying that the latter statement should not be regarded as
more credible simply because it has been signed on to by six more OB-GYNs than
the prior one. The point is not numbers (26 people can be wrong as easily as 20)
but accuracy of research and evidence. I believe that on close inspection
(unfortunately this rarely takes place) nearly all objective parties would agree
that the second statement is based on sounder science than the first.
I do not know how many pregnancy centers have received or read
this second document. I do know, as of late in 2000, many sincere prolifers are
still citing the earlier statement and continue to make inaccurate statements
such as “There’s really no evidence the Pill can cause abortions” or even “it’s
been proven by doctors that the Pill is never an abortifacient.” I wish these
statements were true. Unfortunately, they are not.
Why It's So Difficult to Know for Sure
How many abortions are caused by the Pill? This is difficult to determine.
The answer depends on how often the Pill fails to prevent ovulation, and how
often when ovulation fails and pregnancy occurs, the third mechanism prevents a
fertilized egg from implanting.
I posed the question to Dr. Harry Kraus, a physician and writer of popular
novels with medical themes. This was his response in a December 23, 1996 email:
"How often do birth control pills prevent pregnancy by causing the lining
of the uterus to be inhospitable to implantation? You will not see an answer to
that question anywhere, with our present state of the science. The reason is that
we can only detect early pregnancy by a hormone, beta-hcg (Human chorionic
gonadotropin) which is produced by the embryo after implantation. After fertilization,
implantation does not take place for approximately six days. After implantation,
it takes another six days before the embryo (trophoblast) has invaded
the maternal venous system so that a hormone (beta-hcg) made by the embryo
can reach and be measured in the mom's blood. Therefore, the statistic you seek
is not available."
Despite the fact that definitive numbers cannot be determined, there are
certain medical evidences that provide rationale for estimating the numbers of
Pill-induced abortions. Determining the rate of breakthrough ovulation in Pill-takers
is one key to coming up with informed estimates.
In his Abortifacient Contraception: The Pharmaceutical Holocaust (Human
Life International, 1993, page 7), Dr. Rudolph Ehmann says,
"As early as 1967, at a medical conference, the representatives of a major
hormone producer admitted that with OCs [oral contraceptives], ovulation
with a possibility of fertilization took place in up to seven percent of cases, and
that subsequent implantation of the fertilized egg would usually be prevented.
Bogomir M. Kuhar, Doctor of Pharmacy, is the president of Pharmacists
for Life. In his booklet Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives (page 26),
he cites studies suggesting oral contraceptives have a breakthrough ovulation
rate of 2 to 10%.
World-renowned fertility specialist Dr. Thomas Hilgers estimates the
breakthrough ovulation rate at 4 to 10% ("The New Abortionists," Life Advocate,
March 1994, page 29).
Dr. Nine van der Vange, at the Society for the Advancement of
Contraception's November 26-30, 1984 conference in Jakarta, stated that her
studies indicated an ovulation rate of 4.7% for women taking the Pill.
In another study, 14% of Pill-taking women experienced escape ovulation
("A Randomized Cross-over Comparison of Two Low-Dose Oral Contraceptives,"
H. Kuhl, et. al., Contraception, June 1985, page 583). However, this
involved only twenty-two women, with three experiencing escape ovulation, so
the study is too small to draw definite conclusions. In another study with a
small sampling, 10% of the control group, which didn't miss a pill, experienced
escape ovulation, while 28% of those missing two pills ovulated (Chowdhury
and Joshi, "Escape Ovulation in Women Due to the Missing of Low Dose Combination
Oral Contraceptive Pills," Contraception, September 1980, page 241-
J. C. Espinoza, M.D., says,
"Today it is clear that in at least 5% of the cycles of women on the combined
Pill "escape ovulation" occurs. This fact means that conception is possible
during those cycles, but implantation will be prevented and the "conceptus"
(child) will die. That rate is statistically equivalent to one abortion every
other year for all women on the Pill." (Birth Control: Why Are They Lying to
Women?, page 28.)
In a segment from his Abortion Question and Answers, published online
by Ohio Right to Life, Dr. Jack Willke states:
The newer low-estrogen pills allow
"breakthrough" ovulation in up to 20% or more of the months used. Such a
released ovum is fertilized perhaps 10% of the time. These tiny new lives
which result, at our present "guesstimations," in 1% to 2% of the pill months,
do not survive. The reason is that at one week of life this tiny new boy
or girl cannot implant in the womb lining and dies.
There are factors that can increase the rate of breakthrough ovulation and
increase the likelihood of the Pill causing an abortion. Dr. Kuhar says,
The abortifacient potential of OCs is further magnified in OC users who
concomitantly take certain antibiotics and anticonvulsants which decrease ovulation
suppression effectiveness. It should be noted that antibiotic use among
OC users is not uncommon, such women being more susceptible to bacterial,
yeast and fungal infections secondary to OC use. (Contraceptives can Kill Babies,
American Life League, 1994, page 1.)
We've seen that various sources and studies put breakthrough ovulation
among Pill-takers at rates of 2-10%, 4-10%, 4.7%, 7%, 14%, 10%, and 20%.
The next question is, how many times when ovulation occurs does the second
mechanism, the thickened cervical mucus, prevent sperm from reaching
the egg? There is no way to be sure, but while this mechanism certainly works
sometimes, it may not work most of the time.
Drs. Chang and Hunt did experiments on rabbits that could not be done on
human beings. ("Effects of various progestins and estrogen on the gamete transport
and fertilization in the rabbit," Fertility and Sterility, 1970; 21, p. 683-686.)
They gave the rabbits estrogen and progestin to mimic the Pill, then artificially
inseminated them. Next, they killed the rabbits and did microscopic studies to
examine how many sperm had reached the fallopian tubes and could have fertilized
Progestin, the hormone that thickens cervical mucus, might be expected to
prevent nearly all the sperm from traveling to the tubes. However, it did not. In
every rabbit that had taken the progestin, there were still thousands of sperm
which reached the fallopian tubes, as many as 72% of the number in the control
group. The progestin-caused increase in thickness of cervical mucus did not significantly
inhibit sperm from reaching the egg in the rabbit.
This is certainly not definitive proof, since there can be significant physiological
differences between animals and humans. However, animals are rou-tinely
used for such experiments to determine possible or probable results in humans.
Though I have read several studies on human sperm transport, they seemed
to offer no helpful information related to this subject. Dr. Melvin Taymor of Harvard
Medical School admits, "Sperm transport in women appears to be very complex"
("Some thoughts on the postcoital test," Fertility and Sterility, November 1988,
page 702). The study by Chang and Hunt, while not persuasive in and of itself, at
least raises questions about the extent of the contraceptive effectiveness of thickened
When ovulation takes place, how often will the thickened mucus fail to
prevent conception? The answer is certainly "some of the time." It may also be
"much of the time," or even "most of the time."
The next question is, in those cases when the second mechanism doesn't
work, how often does the significantly altered and less hospitable endometrium
caused by the Pill interrupt the pregnancy?
The Ortho Corporation's 1991 annual report estimated 13.9 million U.S.
women using oral contraceptives. Now, how often would one expect normally
fertile couples of average sexual activity to conceive? Dr. Bogomir Kuhar uses a
figure of 25%. This is confirmed by my research. In "Estimates of human fertility
and pregnancy loss" (Fertility and Sterility, March 1996, page 503), Michael J.
Zinaman and associates cite a study by Wilcox in which "following 221 couples
without known impediments of fertility, [they] observed a per cycle conception
rate of 25% over the first three cycles."
Multiplying this by the low 2% ovulation figure among Pill takers, and
factoring in a 25% conception rate, Dr. Kuhar arrives at a figure of 834,000
birth-control-pill-induced abortions per year (Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives,
page 27). Multiplying by 10%, a higher estimate of breakthrough
ovulation, he states the figure of 4,170,000 abortions per year. (Using other studies,
also based on total estimated number of ovulations and U.S. users, Dr. Kuhar
attributes 3,825,000 annual abortions to IUDs; 1,200,000 to Depo-Provera;
2,925,000 to Norplant.)
There are several objections to this method of computation. First, it assumes
all women taking the Pill, and their partners, have normal fertility rates of
25%, when in fact some women taking the Pill certainly are less fertile than this,
as are some of their partners. Second, the computation fails to take into account
the Pill's thickening of the cervical mucus which may significantly reduce the
rate of conception. Third, it fails to consider the 3% rate of sustained pregnancy
each month among Pill-takers, which obviously are not Pill-induced abortions.
Of course, everything depends on the true rate of breakthrough ovulation,
and the true rate of contraception due to thickened cervical mucus, both of which
remain unknown. Even if the range of abortions is less than indicated by Dr.
Kuhar's computation, however, the total numbers could still be very high.
Several medical researchers have
assured me scientific studies could be conducted on this. So far, though,
the issue of Pill-induced abortions hasn't received attention. Since no conclusive
figures exist, we are left with the indirect but substantial evidence of
the observably diminished capacity of the Pill-affected endometrium to sustain
life. Since there is nothing to indicate otherwise, it seems possible that
implantation in the inhospitable endometrium may be the exception rather
than the rule. For every child who does implant, many others may not. Of
course, we don't know the percentage that will implant even in a normal endometrium unaffected by the Pill. But there is every reason to believe
that whatever that percentage is, the Pill significantly lowers it.
Let's try a different approach to the numbers. According to Pill manufacturers,
approximately fourteen million American women take the Pill each year.
At the 3% annual sustained pregnancy rate, which is firmly established statistically,
in any year there will be 420,000 detected pregnancies of Pill-takers. (I say
"detected" pregnancies, since pregnancies that end before implantation will never
be detected but are nonetheless real.) Each one of these children has managed to
be conceived despite the thickened cervical mucus. Each has managed to implant
even in a "hostile" endometrium.
The question is, how many children failed to implant in that inhospitable
environment who would have implanted in a nurturing environment unhindered
by the Pill? The number who die might be significantly higher than the number
who survive. If it was four times as high, that would be 1,680,000 annual deaths;
if twice as high, 840,000 deaths. If the same number of children do not survive
the inhospitable endometrium as do survive, it would be 420,000 deaths. If only
half as many died as survived, this would be 210,000; if a quarter as many died
as survived 105,000-still a staggering number of Pill-induced abortions each
year. Perhaps the figure is even lower than the lowest of these. I certainly hope
so. Unfortunately, I have seen no evidence to substantiate my hope.
Even if we believe these fatality numbers are too high, we must avoid the
tendency to minimize the value of any human life. I've been told by people, "There's
no way six million Jews died in the holocaust. At most it was half a million." My
response is, "I think there's reason to believe the figure is much more than half a
million. But suppose it was a lot less. How many deaths of the innocent does it
take to qualify as a tragedy?" Similarly, we might ask, "How many children have
to be killed by the Pill to make it too many?"
In his brochure How the Pill and the IUD Work: Gambling with Life"
(American Life League, Stafford, VA), Dr. David Sterns asks:
Just how often does the pill have to rely on this abortive "backup" mechanism?
No one can tell you with certainty. Perhaps it is as seldom as 1 to 2% of
the time; but perhaps it is as frequently as 50% of the time. Does it matter? The
clear conclusion is that it is impossible for any woman on the pill in any given
month to know exactly which mechanism is in effect. In other words, the pill
always carries with it the potential to act as an abortifacient.
Perhaps the annual numbers of Pill-induced abortions add up to millions,
perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. When we factor in
abortions caused by other birth control chemicals, including the Mini-Pill, Norplant
and Depo-Provera, the total figures are almost certainly very high. When prolifers
routinely state there are 1.5 million abortions per year in America (I have
often said this myself), we are leaving out all chemical abortions and are
therefore vastly understating the true number. Perhaps we are also immunizing
ourselves to the reality that life really does begin at conception and we are morally accountable to act like it.
Let's make this more personal by bringing it down to an individual woman.
If a fertile and sexually active woman took the Pill from puberty to menopause,
she would have a potential of 390 suppressed ovulations. Eliminating those times
when she wouldn't take the Pill because she wanted to have a child, or because
she was already pregnant, she might have 330 potentially suppressed ovulations.
If 95% of her ovulations were suppressed, this would mean she would have sixteen
If she is fertile and sexually active, a few of those ovulations might end up
in a known pregnancy because the second and third mechanisms both fail. Of the
other fourteen ova, perhaps nine would never be fertilized, some prevented by the
number two mechanism, the thickened cervical mucus, and some attributable to
the normal rate of nonpregnancy. And perhaps, as a result of the number three
mechanism, she might have five early abortions because though conception took
place, the children could not be implanted in the endometrium.
If the same woman took the Pill for only ten years, she might have one or
two abortions instead of five. Again, we don't know the exact figures. Some
would say these estimates are too high, but based on my research it appears
equally probable they are too low.
There is no way to be certain, but a woman taking the Pill might over time
have no Pill-induced abortions, or she might have one, three or a dozen of them.
We have not even taken into account here the other abortive mechanisms of
the Pill documented earlier, including the peristalsis within the fallopian tube
that decreases the chances of implantation, and the chemical dangers to an already
conceived child whose mother unknowingly continues to take the Pill. Neither
have we considered the residual effect of the Pill that can inhibit implantation
as much as a few months after a woman has stopped using it.
Our beliefs should be governed by the evidence, not by wishful thinking.
The numbers have not been decisively determined, and may never be this side of
eternity. Based on what we do know, we must ask and answer this question: is it
morally right to unnecessarily risk the lives of children by taking the Pill?
In the process of research I've had countless conversations with fellow
Christians, including physicians, pastors and many others. These are the questions
and objections people have most often raised.
There are many possible answers to this question. One is that concerns
about abortions, especially early ones, are not widespread among researchers,
scientists and the medical community in general. Since preventing implantation
isn't of any ethical concern except to those who believe God creates people at the
point of conception, it isn't terribly surprising the experts haven't gotten the word
out. In their minds, why should they?
Dr. T. B. Woutersz, an employee of Wyeth Laboratories, made an amazing
admission about birth control pill studies in his article "A Low-Dose Combination
Oral Contraceptive," in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, December
1981, page 620:
"Despite extensive clinical studies conducted by manufacturers of marketed
products, only these published papers of study cohorts are available for the benefit
of the prescribing physician. All other published papers represent selected,
partial reports of individual investigators. This does not afford a physician much
opportunity to make an educated selection of an oral contraceptive."
The individual who brought this to my attention is also a Wyeth employee,
who asked not to be identified. In a letter dated August 11, 1997 this person told
me, "Many, probably most, birth control studies are not published. They are never
published in their entirety. This is a very competitive business. Companies are
not obligated to publish proprietary information."
This helps explain why it was so difficult for me to obtain research information
from the Pill-manufacturers. They have their own research departments
with dozens of full-time researchers who must produce thousands of pages of
findings every year. But these findings are distilled down into very small packets
of information, including the three operative mechanisms stated in the PDR, the
third of which is prevention of implantation. I did not manage to get from any of
the manufacturers any detailed studies to confirm exactly how they came to their
conclusions. I had to search out on my own the research information in medical
journals, which is usually based on much smaller samplings with a great deal
less funding behind them.
The published indications of Pill-caused abortions is substantial. But it is
spread out in dozens of obscure and technical scientific journals. Consequently,
not only is the most significant evidence not in print, but relatively few physicians-
and almost no one in the general public-have ever seen the most compelling
evidence that is in print. If they have heard anything at all, it has only
been piecemeal. The evidence that has managed to make it to publication has
fallen through the cracks and failed to get the attention of physicians.
Many well-meaning physicians, including Christians, and including Ob/
Gyns and Family Practitioners, simply are not aware of this evidence. I know
this, because that's exactly what a number of them have told me. This is not
entirely surprising. Consider the staggering amount of medical knowledge that
currently exists. Now picture the average physician who is both conscientious
and overworked, swamped with patients. He might read medical journals in an
area of special interest, but there is no way any human being can be fully appraised
of the tens of thousands of medical studies conducted each year in this
When patients hear someone suggest the Pill causes abortions, they will
often come to their physician, who may be prolife, and ask if this is true. The
physician may sincerely say, "According to my understanding, the Pill just prevents
conception, it doesn't cause abortions. You have nothing to be concerned
Most physicians assume that if the Pill really caused abortions, they would
surely know it. In most cases they are not deliberately misleading their patients.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is that their patients do end up misled. Based on
their physician's reassurances, they don't look into the matter further-nor would
most know where to look even if they wanted to. Because the dedicated physician
is so busy, and confident that the Pill only prevents conception, typically he too
does not take the time to do the necessary research.
An isolated reference here or there simply isn't sufficient to change or even
challenge the deeply-ingrained pro-Pill consensus of medicine, society or the
church. If Time magazine devoted a cover story to the subject, the information
would reach a popular level in a way it never has before. But Time and most of its
readers would have little interest in the subject. Perhaps eventually a major Christian
magazine will present this research to the people who should care the most.
So far this has not happened.
Medical semantics have also played a critical role in obscuring the Pill's
abortive mechanism. As documented earlier in this booklet, in 1976 the word
"contraceptive" was redefined by the American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists (ACOG), to include agents which prevent implantation. Changes
in terminology typically occur to draw more careful scientific distinctions, whereas
this one served only to blur the distinction between two clearly separate things,
fertilization and implantation. Several prolife Ob/Gyns told me they are convinced
this move, happening three years after the Supreme Court's 1973 legalization
of abortion, was a deliberate attempt to obscure concerns about birth
control chemicals that sometimes cause early abortions.
Because of the semantic change, medical professionals can honestly say
that the Pill is only a contraceptive, even if they know it sometimes acts to prevent
implantation. For example, Dr. Linda J. Martin wrote to Pediatric News
pointing out that while an August 1997 article had claimed the emergency contraception
pill could "prevent up to 800,000 abortions a year," exactly the opposite
was the case-"they would in fact cause 800,000 abortions a year." Her
logic was that life begins at conception, not implantation. The physician who
wrote the article, Dr. James Trussel, responded, "Both the National Institutes of
Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists define pregnancy
as beginning with implantation. Therefore, emergency contraceptive pills
are not abortifacient" (Pediatric News, Letters to the Editor, October 1997).
This is a dramatic but increasingly
common example of semantic depersonalization- using an arbitrary redefinition
to relegate a child to nonexistence. What might properly be called a "contraimplantive"
mechanism is called instead a "contraceptive" mechanism. An article on 'morning
after' pills explains that they are "ordinary birth control pills containing
the hormones estrogen and progestin, but are taken in a higher dose up to
72 hours after unprotected intercourse" (Oz Hopkins Koglin, "Washington leads
test of 'morning after' pills," The Oregonian,
February 26, 1998, page A1). The article explains that the pills prevent
implantation, but the large font pull quote from Dr. Jack Leversee of the University
of Washington School of Medicine assures readers, "We are not doing away
with a pregnancy; we are preventing it from ever becoming a pregnancy."
Undiscerning prolifers may read such statements and be reassured that these
pills don't cause abortions. Attaching new meanings to old words such as conception
and pregnancy has succeeded in making it sound like the Pill and other
hormonal contraceptives don't kill human beings. It has done nothing, however,
to change the fact that sometimes that's exactly what they do.
Even when the information about the Pill rises to the surface here and there,
so many Christians-including pastors and parachurch leaders-have used and
recommended the Pill, that we have a natural resistance to raising this issue or
looking into it seriously when others raise it. (I know this from my own experience.)
This is likely why so few individuals or organizations have researched or
drawn attention to this subject. Among other things, organizations fear a loss of
financial support from donors who would object to criticism of the Pill.
We also cannot escape the fact that the Pill is a multi-billion dollar world-wide
industry. Its manufacturers, the drug companies, have tremendous vested
interests. So do many physicians prescribing it. I do not mean by this that most
physicians prescribe it primarily for financial gain; I do mean it is a significant
part of the total income of many practices.
An appendix in The Woman's Complete Guide to Personal Health Care,
by Debra Evans (Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers, 1991, pages 319-322), is entitled
"A Physician Looks at Doctors' and Pharmacists' Profits from Prescribing
Birth Control Pills." The writer carefully calculates the costs of various procedures
and comes up with a cost summary per patient. Added to this is the fact that
each woman with a family will take her children to the family practitioner who
prescribes her contraceptives, and usually her husband will go to that doctor.
Using averages for frequency of visits, and factoring in word of mouth or patient-to-
patient referral, the writer calculates that income linked to patients for whom
the doctor prescribes birth control pills range from 55 to 74% of his total income.
Because of the Pill's popularity, physicians who stop prescribing it will
likely lose many patients and their families to other doctors. Even many prolife
physicians resist the notion that the Pill causes abortions and are unlikely to
change their position or even share with their patients evidence such as that presented
in this booklet. (Thankfully, there are certainly exceptions to this.)
Those in the best place to disseminate this information are the Pill manufacturers.
The problem, however, is that they gain customers by convincing them
the Pill works, not by teaching them exactly how it works. No one takes the Pill
because she knows it prevents implantation. But some, perhaps many, might stop
taking it if they knew it does.
Hence, a pharmaceutical company has nothing to gain by drawing attention
to this information, and potentially a great deal to lose. There are many people in
America who profess to believe life begins at conception, and companies do not
want these people to stop using their pills. This concern for good public relations
was exceedingly evident to me in my conversations with staff members at four
major Pill manufacturers. It is also demonstrated in the fact that their FDA-monitored
disclosures in the fine-print professional labeling and in the Physician's
Desk Reference all mention that the Pill prevents implantation, but very few of
their package inserts and none of their colorful consumer booklets say anything
Dr. James Walker, in his paper "Oral Contraception: A Different Perspective"
(Pharmacists for Life, PO Box 1281, Powell, OH, 43065), points out the
Pill's potential to cause abortion. He then says,
"A large percentage of consumers would undoubtedly refuse to use this
form of birth control if they were aware that oral contraceptives worked in this
way. Also, a large number of physicians would refrain from using this method of
contraception if they were aware of the abortifacient mechanism of oral contraceptives
. . . why is the medical (or prescribing) and consumer population so
poorly informed? It could be that the pharmaceutical industry is interested in
making large profits without regard for the sanctity of human life. Or it could be
that the medical community has become so conditioned to supply means for
instant gratification, that our eyes have been blinded to the eternal consequences
of our daily action."
On the most basic level, the widespread ignorance and blindness on this
issue among Christians may be largely attributable to supernatural forces of evil
which promote the deaths of the innocent while lying and misleading to cover
those deaths. (I will address this in the Conclusion.)
One physician told me that he thinks the evidence I've cited is simply incorrect.
He said, "I don't trust these medical studies. I just don't think they're accurate."
I asked him if he had any objective reason for his distrust. He cited the
study I dealt with earlier concerning Norplant. Since he said he didn't trust dozens
of medical sources connecting the Pill with prevention of implantation, I asked
him why he trusted a single source, not even dealing with the Pill, that might
offer evidence to the contrary.
This illustrates a tendency we all have, but which we should all resist-the
tendency to believe whatever we can use to defend our position, and to disbelieve
whatever contradicts our position. We must be willing to seriously examine evidence
that goes against the grain of what we believe, so that rather than reading
our position into the evidence, we allow the evidence to determine our position.
The same physician, a committed prolife advocate, wrote to me that breast
feeding results in "an atrophic thin endometrium." He then stated, "So, in theory,
if you state oral contraceptives may cause an abortion, logically the same could
be said for breast-feeding." He told me that, to be consistent, if I was going to call
the Pill an abortifacient I would have to say the same of breast-feeding.
I submitted this argument to another Ob/Gyn, Dr. Paul Hayes. In a August
15, 1997 email Dr. Hayes responded,
"It is an erroneous misuse of words to say that breast-feeding creates an
atrophic endometrium. Lack of ovulation during breast-feeding accounts for a
state of the endometrium that is inactive, precisely because no ovulation is taking
place. This is unlike the Pill where ovulation can take place . . . but the effect
of the progestin is to make an atrophic lining, inhibiting nidation. There is no
comparison between the two."
Since we are uncertain about the actual number of abortions, how should
we act in light of our uncertainty?
If a hunter is uncertain whether a movement in the brush is caused by a
deer or a person, should his uncertainty lead him to shoot or not to shoot?
If you're driving at night and you think the dark figure ahead on the road
may be a child, but it may just be the shadow of a tree, do you drive into it or do
you put on the brakes? What if you think there's a 50% chance it's a child? 30%
chance? 10% chance? 1% chance? How certain do you have to be that you may
kill a child before you put on the brakes?
Shouldn't we give the benefit of the doubt to life? Let's say that you are
skeptical of all this research, all these studies, and all the Pill manufacturers'
statements that the Pill sometimes results in the death of a child. You might ask
yourself if the reason is because of your personal bias and vested interests, but for
the moment let's just say you're genuinely uncertain. Is it a Christlike attitude to
say "Because taking the Pill may or may not kill a child, I will therefore take the
Pill"? If we are uncertain, shouldn't that compel us not to take it?
My research has convinced me the evidence is compelling. It is the numbers
that are uncertain. Can we really say in good conscience, "Because I'm
uncertain exactly how many children are killed by the Pill, therefore I will take
it"? How many dead children would it take to be too many?
It seems to me more Christlike to say, "Because the evidence indicates the
Pill sometimes causes abortions, I will not use it and will seek to inform others of
its dangers to the unborn."
One physician pointed out to me that there are many spontaneous abortions
and miscarriages. Because of this, he felt we should not be troubled by pre-implantation
abortions caused by the Pill. They are just some among many.
I've heard the same logic used to defend fertility research and in-vitro fertilization
in which embryos are conceived outside the womb. Three to six of
these may be implanted in a uterus in the hopes one may live, but the majority
die, and some are frozen or discarded. In the best case scenario, two to five die in
the attempt to implant one, and often all of them die.
When, even under optimal conditions, physicians attempt to implant an
embryo conceived in-vitro, it is true that there is a low success rate. According to
Dr. Leon Speroff, the success rate in any given cycle is 13.5% and since typically
three to six embryos may be used to attempt implantation, the actual survival rate
is just over 3%. This means that 29 out of 30 embryos die in the attempt to
implant a child (Leon Speroff, Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility;
Williams and Wilkins, fifth edition, 1994, page 937-39).
In-vitro fertilization implantation data is not applicable to natural implantation.
Concerning the latter, as documented in their book Conception to Birth,
Drs. Kline, Stein and Susser put forward certain assumptions then state,
". . . the preimplantation data would indicate that at least 50 per cent of all
fertilizations will not result in a live birth. . . . the probability of loss in the
interval between the preimplantation and postimplantation periods alone is 30
per cent". (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, page 54-55).
In their article "Estimates of human fertility and pregnancy loss" (Fertility
and Sterility, March 1996, page 503-504), Michael J. Zinaman and associates
cite different studies showing spontaneous abortion rates of 15% to 20%, 13% to
22%, 12 to 14%, and 20-62%.
This confirms that there are in fact many early miscarriages. Since this is
true, however, does it therefore follow, "Because God permits-or nature causes-
millions of spontaneous abortions each year, it's okay if we cause some too"?
There is a big difference, a cosmic difference, between God and us! What
God is free to do and what we are free to do are not the same. God is the giver and
taker of life. God is the potter, we are the clay (Isaiah 45:9-11). His prerogatives
are unique to Him. He is the Creator, we are the creatures. He has the right to
take human life, but we do not. (See Appendix D: God is Creator and Owner
of all people.)
Nature is under the curse of sin and as a result there is widespread death in
this world, both inside and outside the womb (Romans 8:19-22). God is the Superintendent
of nature and can overrule it when he so chooses. But none of this
permits us to say "because God lets so many people die, I'll go ahead and kill
some of them myself." Spontaneous abortions of women not taking contraceptives
are not our responsibility. Abortions caused by contraceptives we
choose to take and prescribe are.
The same principle applies when someone concludes that since a baby will
probably die within a few days or weeks of his birth, we may as well abort him
now. The difference is between losing a child to death, by God's sovereign choice,
and our choosing to kill that child. This is a fundamental and radical difference.
(See Appendix E: God has exclusive prerogatives over human life and death.)
I have several letters from Christian physicians and organizations that use
the term "micro-abortion" in reference to the possibility that the Pill prevents
implantation. Such semantics minimize the abortion, as if it isn't "real" or impor-tant
like surgical abortions of bigger children. We should avoid such dehumaniz-ing
terms. Though the child is very small the child is still a child and therefore the
abortion is just as big in its importance.
Just because many children die very young doesn't make their deaths insig-nificant.
True, we may lose several children we don't even know about, through
early spontaneous miscarriages. But that in no way justifies choosing to take
something into our bodies that puts other children at risk.
A letter from one Christian organization says this:
"It has been pointed out that a woman who is not taking birth control pills
is actually more likely to experience the loss of an embryo-some studies indicate
that up to 80% of conceived embryos naturally fail to implant-than one
who is on the pill, which rarely, if ever, permits conception."
The logic seems to be that when we use a chemical that kills some children
we can take consolation in knowing that this same chemical prevents many other
children from ever being conceived and therefore from ever dying. This is convoluted
logic, and again it puts us in the place of God.
If there are fewer miscarriages because of the Pill it is not because the Pill
brings any benefit to a preborn child, but only because it results in fewer children
conceived. This is an illusion-it's not that lives are being preserved, but simply
that there are fewer lives to preserve. There is less death only because there is
Using this logic, the most prolife thing we could do would be to eliminate
all pregnancy. We could then congratulate ourselves that we also eliminated abortion.
In the process, of course, we will have eliminated children. Similarly, the
number of people with cancer could be lowered by reducing the number of people
in society. But we would hardly think of that as a cure-especially if the means
we used to have less people involved killing some of them.
A prolife physician pointed out in a letter to her pastor that 50% of unwanted
pregnancies end in abortion. Therefore a million more unwanted pregnancies each
year could mean a half million more abortions each year. In other words, the
logic is it's better to use the most effective birth control means possible even if it
does cause abortions, because if it isn't used there will be even more.
Suppose for a moment this were true. What is the logic? "Let's go ahead
and take action that will kill some children now because at least if we do there
may be other children, more of them, who won't get killed." The same approach
could be used to deny drowning children access to a crowded life raft. This sort of
pragmatism rings hollow when we put certain human lives at risk, without their
consent, for the supposed good of others.
Ultimately, however, the premise is not true, since unfortunately it is only a
small minority who would even consider not taking the Pill because it causes
early abortions. The only people who will stop taking the Pill for this reason are
not only prolife, but deeply committed to their beliefs. This booklet won't have
much if any impact in the secular world. I do hope it will encourage some of
God's people to live by a higher moral code than the world does.
A person who as a matter of conscience will not risk the life of a newly-conceived
child-whose presence in her womb she can't even yet feel-will surely
not turn around and kill a child just because she has an unplanned pregnancy.
Among people who stop taking the Pill to protect unborn children, there may be
more unplanned pregnancies, but they will result in births, not abortions.
I've frequently been told that because most people's intention in taking the
Pill is to prevent conception, not to have an abortion, it's therefore ethical for
them to continue taking the Pill.
I certainly agree most women taking the Pill don't intend to get abortions.
In fact, I'm convinced 99% of them are unaware this is even possible. (Which is
a sad commentary on the lack of informed consent by Pill-takers.) But the fact
remains that while the intentions of those taking the Pill may be harmless, the
results can be just as fatal.
A nurse giving your child an injection could sincerely intend no harm to
your child, but if she unknowingly injects him with a fatal poison, her good intentions
will not lessen the tragedy. Whether the nurse has the heart of a murderer or
a saint, your child is equally dead. The best intentions do nothing to reverse the
most disastrous results.
In this sense, taking the Pill is analogous to playing Russian roulette, but
with more chambers and therefore less risk per episode. In Russian roulette, participants
usually don't intend to shoot themselves.Their intention is irrelevant,
however, because if they play the game long enough they just can't beat the odds.
Eventually they die.
The Russian roulette of the Pill is done with someone else's life. Each time
someone taking the Pill engages in sex, she runs the risk of aborting a child.
Instead of a one in six chance, maybe it's a one in thirty or one in a hundred or one
in five hundred chance, I'm not sure. I am sure that it's a real risk-the scientific
evidence tells us the chemical "gun" is loaded. The fact that she will not know
when a child has been aborted in no way changes whether or not a child is aborted.
Every month she continues to take the Pill increases her chances of having her
first-or next-silent abortion. She could have one, two, a half dozen or a dozen
of these without ever having a clue.
A prolife physician told me he felt comfortable still prescribing the Pill
because "It's primarily contraceptive and only secondarily abortive."
Suppose a friend gave you a bottle of diet pills and said, "Their primary
effect is to suppress your appetite, and cause you to lose weight." You say, "But
I've heard they can cause major problems." Your friend tells you, "True, they can
result in heart attacks, blindness and kidney failures, but don't worry about that;
those are only secondary effects, not primary."
The point is, even if it doesn't happen most of the time, whenever an effect
does happen it is not secondary in importance, it is primary. Even if the Pill
doesn't usually cause an abortion, whenever it does it is just as real an abortion
as if that were its primary effect.
One physician said to me, "Pill manufacturers have never been sued by an
unborn child who dies, but they have been sued by many women suffering from
the serious side effects of high estrogen. For liability reasons alone, they will
never go back to making high dose estrogen pills."
Even when pills had mega doses of estrogen, however, the annual pregnancy
rate of women on the Pill was still 1% and the effects on thinning the
endometrium were comparable to what they are now. This means that breakthrough
ovulations certainly still took place, even if at a lower rate. It may have
added up to fewer abortions then, but not no abortions.
I asked pharmacist Richard Hill at Ortho-McNeil if the higher dose pills
were more successful in suppressing ovulation. He said, "Not really-there's a
ceiling point of estrogen, beyond which more isn't better. By the time you get to
35 micrograms, for most people you've reached the point of maximum ovulation
suppression." (This may contradict some other sources I cited earlier. I include it
for the sake of representing different viewpoints.)
In any case, unless you were able to get three current "high dose" birth
control prescriptions of 50 micrograms each and take three pills a day, you could
not equal the 1960's standard dose of 150 micrograms of estrogen.
Even if you did, you would have to face the very serious side effects and risks
to a woman's health that motivated pill manufacturers to lower the estrogen level in
the first place. In light of these dangers, it's virtually certain no physician would give
such a prescription. It would probably be unwise to take it if he did.
We put ourselves and our children at risk every time we drive a car. If we
let our kids go swimming we take risks. Our child's ability to grow, mature and
gain confidence––and trust in God–– in a world of risks partially depends on our
willingness to take reasonable risks with them.
But we are also careful not to take unnecessary risks. Our risks are wise
and calculated. Because we love our children we expose them only to a measured
level of risk-they ride in the car, yes, but we belt them in and drive carefully. As
they grow up they learn to make their own decisions as to what level of risk is
wise and acceptable.
The younger our children are, the less risks we take with them. We might
leave an eight-year-old free to roam the house, while we wouldn't a toddler. When
we are talking about a newly-conceived human being, if we take the Pill it is his life
we are risking. The reason we're doing so is not for his growth and maturity, but
for our convenience. We are unnecessarily putting him at risk of his very survival.
Through the choice to take certain chemicals into our bodies via the Pill, we may be
robbing him of the single most important thing we can offer a newly-conceived
child-a hospitable environment in which he can be nourished and grow.
We would not consider withholding food and a home and physical safety
for our children who are already born. We would not be careless about what we
eat and drink and the chemicals we ingest and the activities we do that could
jeopardize our preborn child six months after conception. Then neither should we
put our child at unnecessary risk six days after conception. Yes, we can't know
for certain our child is even there at six days. But if we've been sexually active
we know she may be there. And therefore we should do nothing that could unnecessarily
jeopardize her life.
A sexually active woman runs a new risk of aborting a child with every Pill
she takes. Of course, the decision to take the Pill isn't just a woman's but her
husband's, and he is every bit as responsible for the choice as she is. As the God-appointed
leader in the home, in fact, he may be even more responsible.
How much risk is acceptable risk? Part of it depends on the alternatives. There
is no such thing as a car or a house that poses no risk to your children. But there is
such a thing as a contraceptive method which does not put a child's life at risk. There
are safe alternatives to the Pill that do not and cannot cause abortions.
No matter what level of risk parents decide to take with their children,
surely we should agree that they deserve to know if evidence indicates they are
taking such a risk. To be aware of the evidence that taking the Pill may cause
abortions and not to share that information with parents is to keep them in the
dark and rob them of exercising an informed choice about their own children.
I am now treading on ground which is bound to offend Christians on both
sides of the contraceptive debate. Many, as my wife and I did for years, will have
used contraceptives, believing this is acceptable to God. Others do not believe
this. They would respond to this question not by pointing to alternative methods
of birth control, but by saying, "We shouldn't be taking birth control in the first
place-it is God who opens and closes the womb, and it's playing God to try to
dictate your family size. The Bible says children are a blessing from the Lord, not
inconveniences to be avoided. Children are blessings sent from God. Which of
his other blessings-such as financial provision, a good job, a strong marriage,
or a solid church-are you desperately trying to avoid?"
On the one hand, for various reasons my wife and I used birth control and
"stopped" after two children. If we had it to do over again, would we do it differently?
I honestly don't know, though I am certain we would give it more Bible
study, thought and prayer before making our decision. As I tell the students in my
Bible college ethics class, I think we must look at both sides of this issue seriously.
Certainly, we must be sure we are not succumbing to our society's "Planned
Parenthood" view of children rather than God's view of children. (See Appendix
G: How God Sees Children.)
Regardless of our position on contraceptives, I think we should be able to
agree that God is grieved by the anti-child mentality that surfaces sometimes
even in the church, where snide remarks are made to and about families with
more than three children and cold stares are the response to every crying baby.
Whether someone has a large family or a small family (like we do), I believe
large families should be seen not as the products of irresponsibility, but as blessings
from God. My own father was the tenth of thirteen children. Am I glad his
parents didn't stop after nine children? Of course I am. If they would have, I
wouldn't be here, and neither would my daughters-and they wouldn't be making
the great difference for Christ they're making.
However, this booklet is not motivated by a desire to persuade people that
all attempts at family planning are wrong. I have only one agenda here and it is
not a hidden one. My position is one I believe all Christians should agree on
regardless of their differing positions on family planning. That position is this: no
family planning which sacrifices the lives of a family member can be morally
right and pleasing to God.
Someone said there is evidence latex can be toxic and therefore they believe
it's possible the regular use of condoms can have abortive effects.
I"Natural Family Planning" is not simply the old calendar "rhythm" method,
which was based on biological averages but was not effective for women with
irregular cycles. Rather, it is a very thoughtful and scientific approach, based on
the fact that during each menstrual cycle a woman becomes fertile and then naturally
infertile, and there are physical signs to indicate these fertile and infertile
times. The Sympto-Thermal method crosschecks mucus and temperature indicators
in a way that is highly accurate and reliable.
The Couple to Couple League defines Natural Family Planning as "the
practice of achieving or avoiding pregnancies according to an informed awareness
of a woman's fertility" (NFP: Safe, Healthy, Effective, page 1). They cite
studies showing their methods to be extremely effective. They certainly are safe,
as they do not involve taking any chemicals or implanting any devices.
Natural Family Planning classes and home study courses are available to
teach couples how the process works. You may contact the following organizations
for information: Couple to Couple League, P.O. Box 111184, Cincinnati,
OH 45211, 513-471-2000, http://www.ccli.org, firstname.lastname@example.org; BOMA-USA
(Billings Ovulation Method Association), 316 N. 7th Ave., St. Cloud, MN 56304,
320-252-2100, www.woomb.org, email@example.com.Though I'm not intimately
familiar with these methods, what I've seen suggests they're worth exploring.
Natural Family Planning, practiced by informed couples,
can be just as effective as the Pill. Some studies suggest it is actually more effective, with a 99% success rate. These studies are cited by materials from the Couple
to Couple League, as well as those of the American Life League (P.O. Box 1350,
Stafford, Virginia 22555; 703-659-4171; http://www.all.org).
But let's look at the "worst case" scenario of a Christian couple not taking
the Pill-conceiving and giving birth to an unplanned child. Consider how many
people have been richly blessed by children who were unplanned. These are not
"accidents," they are precious creations of God. Babies are not cancerous tumors
to be desperately avoided and removed. That they are unplanned by us does not
mean they are unplanned by God.
We have to weigh the increased "risk" of having a child, a person God
calls a blessing, against the possibility of killing a child, an act God calls an
abomination. No matter where a Christian stands on the birth control issue, we
should surely be able to agree that the possibility of having a child is always
better than the possibility of killing a child.
Many unwanted pregnancies have resulted in wanted children. I know a
man whose married daughter recently stopped taking the Pill when she learned it
sometimes causes abortion. She got pregnant soon thereafter. It didn't fit this
couple's plan, but now they're thrilled to have this child. The grandfather said to
me with a smile, "thanks to my daughter not taking the Pill, God gave us a wonderful
grandchild!" Is that really so bad? Though I am not arguing against birth
control per se, I am convinced God was pleased by this couple's choice to not
place children at risk for the sake of their preferences and convenience. That he
has chosen to give them a child may be a challenge, but he should not be regarded
as a curse, but a blessing.
There may also be some health benefits to women who choose not to take
the Pill. As anyone who has read the inserts packaged with birth control pills
knows, there are serious risks to some women associated with oral contraceptives,
including increased incidence of blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, high
blood pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility,
breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver tumors, and ectopic pregnancy. These
and other risks are spelled out under each BCP's listing in the Physician's Desk
Reference. The health issue is not my central concern in this booklet, but it is
certainly worth considering.
The moral problem is when, regardless of the
reasons for taking it, a sexually active woman takes the Pill and thereby runs the
continuous risk of aborting a child.
Back To Top
Permissions: Feel free to reproduce and distribute any articles written by Randy Alcorn,
in part or in whole, in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way or
charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. It is our desire to spread this information, not protect or restrict it.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: by Randy Alcorn,
Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2229 E. Burnside #23, Gresham, OR 97030, 503-663-6481, www.epm.org