Birth control and Abortifacients

Hi everyone,

I have been wondering about the morality of birth control that is are also considered abortifacients.

This is how most hormonal birth control works (In my understanding), they make ovulation discontinue, and also make it difficult for sperm to reach an egg if one does actually drop. This process inhibits fertilization. I’m fairly certain that’s morally sound. You have to have fertilization to have conception, so if no fertilization happens, no life is lost.
However, I’m finding nearly all birth control have a sort of “failsafe”, a last ditch effort to make sure pregnancy does not ensue. Most hormonal birth control changes the lining of the uterus, rendering it more difficult for a fertilized egg to attach and stay, if fertilization does in fact happen. That’s where my moral quandary lies.

The first and most important question is when does life really begin?
And if we don’t have an answer for that question, should we error on the side of more caution?
What do leading Christian scientists have to say about this?
What does the Bible suggest about things like this?

I’m genuinely not certain what is correct. Thank you for your inputs!

Rachel

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Hi, @rachschro. I’m glad you’re asking this question. Learning about birth control’s “failsafe“ method of pregnancy prevention you mentioned brought me to a similar uncomfortable place years ago. I think I first heard about the three ways birth control works on an American Family Radio program. The information troubled me greatly. I remember sorrowfully wondering how many children I had conceived that I never even knew of. I didn’t bring my question to anyone who could genuinely advise me. I prayed and researched the way the medicine worked online then tried to make the best decision I could with what I knew. It wasn’t easy.

This conversation could really help a lot of families and open many eyes. Thanks for bringing this up. I pray you find the answers and peace you need.

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Hi, Rachel,
Conception is when the sperm fertilizes the egg. The second that happens, a new life is begun with its own unique DNA, but more importantly, its own soul and self. And when dealing with matters such as this, it’s always important to err on the far side of caution, because this is something you do not want to mess up on. :wink:

Saying that life comes sometime after the moment of conception can lead to a slippery slope, because after that it’s an opinion. You can believe that life doesn’t happen until the first heartbeat, but then it’s very easy to say when the baby looks like a baby, or when it’s aware (full awareness doesn’t really happen until after birth). But if you want a “science” answer, it’s scientifically proven that the baby’s life and development start at conception, and to make it so that a fertilized egg isn’t able to attach and therefore dies is, in my opinion, destroying a new life.

Hope this helps. God bless!
-Tirzah

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Thanks for your question, Rachel - it’s something we don’t think about enough in the church, I think! I hope this clears some things up:

  1. That life begins at fertilisation is uncontroversial among biologists and medics. The best example is this recent survey of thousands of biologists which found that they overwhelmingly confirmed that life begins at fertilisation (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3211703). There are countless textbooks and journal articles that could be cited in support of this as well.
  2. There is a deliberate attempt on the part of some abortion advocates to redefine the beginning of pregnancy, which in some cases has been successful. Hence I think the ACOG says that pregnancy begins at implantation, and many legal systems interpret pregnancy as beginning at implantation for the purposes of emergency ‘contraception’ (which in some cases is actually abortifacient). That this is basically a trick is best shown by the fact that those same legal systems, when judging the gestation, overwhelmingly do not use implantation as the start of pregnancy. In fact, as a doctor I’ve rarely come across anyone using implantation as the beginning of pregnancy for any reason other than to legitimise emergency contraception (and not count it as abortion). So I wouldn’t place any trust in the idea that pregnancy/life begins at implantation - it’s a deliberate political move rather than anything based on science.
  3. You are right that contraception which is genuinely contraceptive does not involve taking a life, and so is not wrong for the same reason as abortion. That said, I do think there might be other reasons why it is wrong. Though I’m not 100% certain, I think it is something we should reflect on more deeply (especially among Protestants like me!). I’ve tried to do that a bit in my reply on this post, which you might find helpful: Is Birth Control Wrong? Is using it really not trusting God?
  4. Emergency contraceptives certainly can cause abortion - at least, copper IUDs can. In my view, I think the evidence that emergency contraceptive pills (such as ulipristal and levonorgestrel) can cause abortion as well, though the evidence there is not as certain.
  5. There is quite a lot of debate about the extent to which ordinary long-term contraceptives do have an abortifacient backup mechanism. The evidence is a lot better for some than for others. For example, it’s universally recognised that copper IUDs can cause early abortion, while other forms of contraception are much more controversial. Unfortunately, for the same political reasons, it’s very difficult to take medical bodies at their word on these kinds of issues - there is a lot of evidence that in the arena of ‘reproductive health’, medical and other bodies often distort the evidence and mislead people. So I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the most credible overviews from each side of the debate. The two best overviews I’ve found are:
  6. http://www.ecotimecapsule.com/pagecontents/pdfs/contraception/article4b.pdf - John Guillebaud is a Professor of Family Planning and is a Christian who is sincerely interested in finding out the truth on contraception. That said, his view is that fertilisation is only complete at implantation, so he does not think that contraception preventing implantation is abortion - this may introduce some bias towards supporting those kinds of contraceptive.
  7. https://aaplog.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/FINAL-CO-7-Embryocidal-Potential-of-Modern-Contraception-1.20.20.pdf - this is from the American Association of Pro Life OBGYNs, who I believe are much more sceptical about contraceptives, thinking it is hard to rule out this backup mechanism.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any further questions. :slight_smile:

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You all have aided in a good discussion about this! Thank you for your insight. It’s a conversation that I think we don’t see enough in the church. It’s refreshing to be able to discuss and consider with others who love Jesus.

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