This week The New York Times posted the article, “Abortion qualms on the morning-after pill may be unfounded.”


Before quoting the NYT piece let me make clear it makes no such claim about hormonal birth control pills, only Plan B, advertised to be taken up to three days after unprotected sex, and Ella, advertised to be taken up to five days after unprotected sex.

In a nutshell:

Based on the belief that a fertilized egg is a person, some religious groups and conservative politicians say disrupting a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus is abortion….

But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.

It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs.

A few pro-life medical and science experts whom I respect have expressed this same opinion to me in the past. Others believe the opposite from their research.

Most agree we can never know exactly how each ingestion of the morning-after pill works. How it stops pregnancy depends on when in a woman’s cycle she takes the pill in conjunction with when she had sex. But most agree one way it may work is by causing 5-9 day old embryo to flush out of the uterus, because the uterus has been made impermeable to embedding. Bottom line, quoting the NYT:

“I would be relieved if it doesn’t have this effect,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “So far what I see is an unresolved debate and some studies on both sides,” he said, adding that because of difficulties in ethically testing the drugs on women, “it’s not only unresolved, but it may be unresolvable.”

Nevertheless, pro-abortion groups have lit up with this news. They’re going wild on Twitter. We have entered into a new debate. Rest assured the other side will forever hearken back to this NYT piece as the definitive statement that morning-after pills don’t cause abortions.

MAP, not BC

And they will toss in birth control pills, too, although as I wrote at the beginning of this article, the NYT was clear to say they are not part of this conversation:

Experts say implantation was likely placed on the label partly because daily birth control pills, some of which contain Plan B’s active ingredient, appear to alter the endometrium, the lining of the uterus into which fertilized eggs implant. Altering the endometrium has not been proven to interfere with implantation. But in any case, scientists say that unlike the accumulating doses of daily birth control pills, the one-shot dose in morning-after pills does not have time to affect the uterine lining.

NYT acknowledges huge morning-after pill failure rate

As an aside, there was another huge piece of information hidden in the NYT piece:

The pregnancy prevention rates are probably lower than scientists and pill makers originally thought, he said – in some studies as low as 52 percent for Plan B and 62 percent for Ella.

Wow. Plan B doesn’t work half the time, and Ella doesn’t work one-third of the time.

Pro-life bottom line

A few quick thoughts…

  • For the NYT to say “studies have not established” MAPs can cause abortions is pretty weak, and it is coming from the NYT. We must always err on the side of life, continuing to accept the current scientific body of understanding about MAPs until it is definitely proven otherwise, if that can ever happen.
  • Hormonal birth control pills and the megadose morning-after pill Plan B remain dangerous to women and to the environment.  Only this week several UK news outlets reported on the “new water pollution scare” – artificial estrogen in the water system that is feminizing male fish and causing “collapses in the fish populations.” The Guardian called birth control ingredients “toxic.” Where are the feminists seeking to protect women from the harmful effects of these steroids.
  • As Kathleen Gilbert of noted in in email, it is interesting that the same people who have called pro-lifers crazy for saying morning-after pills cause abortions – just by reading package labeling – are now gleeful by the prospect this labeling may be removed. Why? Furthermore, the labeling remains intact on birth control pill packaging.
  • From a pro-life perspective, almost all of the reasons mothers give for elective abortions are the same reasons they give to contracept. The contraception mentality is the root of the abortion mentality. Contraception literally means, “anti-conception.” Nowhere in the Bible are children considered any other than gifts and blessings from God. Many Christians have abandoned this understanding of children, buying into pop culture myths about overpopulation and self-fulfillment that can’t be had without delaying or foregoing children.

Reprinted with permission from