Politics & Policy

Yes, Some Contraceptives Are Abortifacients

(Dreamstime )
Unless you twist the definition of ‘pregnancy’ beyond reason

A writer at Rewire recently accused Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of using his pro-life stance to spread “religious-liberty myths,” one of which is supposedly his (scientifically accurate) argument that some types of contraception can act as abortifacients. Progressives often argue that no form of birth control — whether emergency contraceptives such as ella or Plan B One-Step, or a long-term method such as an intrauterine device (IUD) — can cause an abortion.

Pro-abortion-rights activists employ a neat semantic trick to evade and ignore the scientific details of abortifacient drugs: redefining “pregnancy” to mean “the implantation of an embryo in the uterine lining.” Thus any drug that prevents implantation of an existing embryo prevents pregnancy rather than aborting an existing one. Semantics aside, the crucial, underlying question is whether these birth-control methods cause embryonic death. As it turns out, contra abortion acolytes such as Rewire and Planned Parenthood, all three of the above-mentioned contraceptive methods can, and frequently do.

This question became a focal point of abortion politics during the debate surrounding Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the decision in which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the Health and Human Services mandate under Obamacare, a mandate that forces employers to insure employees’ contraception regardless of religious belief. The owners of Hobby Lobby were not opposed to all birth control per se, but as Christians they opposed abortion and therefore objected to providing emergency-contraception drugs such as ella, which have been shown to act as abortifacients.

While granting the sincerity of the beliefs of the Hobby Lobby owners, the dissenting justices and the lawyers representing the Obama administration maintained that the beliefs were false and therefore insufficient grounds on which to override the right to contraceptive coverage. During oral arguments, solicitor general Donald Verrilli asserted that the owners’ beliefs were not in line with federal or state laws, “which do preclude funding for abortions [but] don’t consider these particular forms of contraception to be abortion.” Moreover, he added, “we’ve got about 2 million women who rely on the IUD as a method of birth control in this country. I don’t think they think they are engaged in abortion.”

But progressive Democrats such as those in Obama’s HHS — who frequently tout themselves as members of the “party of science” — are strikingly, and perhaps willfully, ignorant of the science involved in this issue. They claim that the contraceptive methods in question operate by preventing ovulation, making conception impossible, but in fact IUDs, ella, and Plan B, to greater or lesser degrees, permit ovulation or prevent it only when taken within an extremely narrow timeframe. If an embryo is conceived at any point (as has been proven possible even in the presence of these methods), it could easily be wiped out by any three of these methods.

As Donna Harrison has explained at NRO, an IUD’s manipulation of the hormone progesterone causes a woman’s body to reject any embryo that might be formed after ovulation, rather than wholly stopping ovulation from occurring. The copper material in some IUDs has been shown to be toxic to an embryo, leading to its death or, if it survives, abnormal development. Furthermore, an IUD’s manipulation of the uterine lining accounts for the fact that, among women who become pregnant while using an IUD, there is a high rate of ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo implants somewhere outside the uterus.

Though some fringe activists continue to deny the humanity of embryos — the ‘clump of cells’ argument — most pro-abortion-rights advocates today will admit that fetuses are living humans.

Meanwhile, ella — if taken during or after ovulation, as opposed to just before, which is the only time it could prevent an egg from being released — often allows an embryo to be conceived even after ingestion of the drug and nearly always kills that embryo. When ella was being considered for FDA approval, scientific research showed that the drug killed the vast majority of embryos that had been conceived after mothers had taken ella as emergency contraception. Whether those deaths are labeled “abortions” or “miscarriages,” or even just ignored, it is clear that ella does not always prevent conception from occurring, and it nearly always goes on to destroy any life that has been conceived. One member of the FDA advisory panel reviewing this evidence stated that the drug must function as an abortifacient in order to produce such results.

Plan B, like ella, often fails to prevent conception when it is taken outside a five-day window in a woman’s cycle (as it often is, because women use it as an emergency contraceptive regardless of where they are in their cycle). If the drug fails to prevent conception, it nearly always goes on to kill the embryo that has been conceived. Data show that, among women who took Plan B outside the prescribed timeframe, the pregnancy rate was strikingly low. That is likely the result of the way in which Plan B interferes with the production of progesterone, preventing embryos from implanting and being sustained. Though in many cases the woman may not have conceived at all, in the cases where she had, the embryo was almost always rejected and killed.

#related#Such contraceptives pose two central questions: Do they act in some cases to end a life? And, if they do, is that wrong? The wholly scientific evidence shows that all three of these methods are not fail-safe means of preventing conception and that, in the event of “failure,” they usually go on to kill conceived embryos. Though some fringe activists continue to deny the humanity of embryos — the “clump of cells” argument — most pro-abortion-rights advocates today will admit that fetuses are living humans. And what else could they be? If spared from the killing mechanisms of abortifacient drugs or other means of destruction, embryos will continue to manifest more fully their human functions and characteristics rapidly over time. Embryos are surely humans as much as you and I, who began as embryos just like everyone else. Their lives are surely ended by these methods of birth control; if murder is ever wrong, abortifacient drugs must be wrong, too.

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