The "morning after" pill: Contraception or abortifacient? PDF Print E-mail

by Terry Schlossberg

Presbyterians often ask us about contraception. Our answer is first of all related to the matter of whether what is categorized under the heading is truly contraceptive. The term "contraceptive" means prevention of fertilization. Contraception is an intentional barrier between the sperm and the ovum which prevents their union and the formation of a new human life. Methods which serve to prevent the birth of a live baby are not contraceptives. They are abortifacients. Like other methods of abortion, they end the life of a developing child in the womb.

In some cases, the way in which a device or drug works which is intended as a contraceptive has been a mystery. Only after the IUD (interuterine device) was on the market for a number of years was it found to be abortifacient in effect.

There is still debate in the medical community over exactly how contraceptive pills work and whether they are truly contraceptive or instead act to prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting in the wall of the uterus.

The "morning after" pill has been in the news recently, and is very often erroneously referred to as a contraceptive drug. One prominent newspaper account described the effect of the drug as preventing fertilization. Advocates often tout the drug as a method of reducing abortions.

Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. William J. Hogan writes,

When a woman's egg is fertilized in the fallopian tube, she is pregnant. Five to seven days after fertilization, the new human being arrives in the cavity of the uterus and implants there. When the "morning after" pill blocks implantation, its action is "de facto" abortifacient. Therefore, it does not reduce the number of abortions but increases it.

Contraceptives are used in preparation for intercourse in an effort to prevent union of sperm with egg. It takes only a short time for sperm to reach an ovum if it is waiting in the fallopian tube ovum--usually no more than several hours following ejaculation. The "morning after" pill--as the name implies--is intended to be taken only after intercourse occurs. That is why the "morning after" pill certainly increases rather than reduces the incidence of abortion.



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