A common misconception among many women and couples is that oral contraceptives (“the pill”) prevent pregnancy without side effects. This is not true. Approximately 14 million American women use the pill. They often do not fully understand what the pill is or how it works, and their doctors are either unable or unwilling to provide accurate information.
Oral contraceptives can work in three different ways. First, they can inhibit ovulation by suppressing the hypothalamus. Second, oral contraceptives can thicken the cervical mucus, increasing the difficulty for sperm to enter the uterus. Finally, they can change the endometrium (lining of the uterus), which reduces the likelihood of implantation of a fertilized embryo.
This last effect of oral contraceptives should be of great concern to Pro-lifers. It is estimated that the third effect occurs in 2 – 10% of female cycles per year. The egg has already been fertilized, resulting in a human blastocyst. This young human is then unable to implant into the mother's womb (which, because of the pill, has become a hostile environment for the human child). Without implantation the child dies, which means that the pill – through this last effect – is abortive.
Medical Journals, popular magazines and even the book My Body, My Health have documented the effects of the pill since the 1970's – including the third effect, which prevents implantation. Unfortunately, the true nature of the pill's effects is often ignored. As one drug company representative explained, “Even if 'escape ovulation' should occur, the endometrium is not in a favorable state for implantation.” The drug companies avoid using any terms that would make it clear that fertilization has already occurred at this point.
Progestin-only and low-dose oral contraceptives are often marketed as additional safe alternatives. However, they are even less effective at suppressing ovulation and rely most heavily on the second two effects. Also of concern is the morning-after pill, which pro-abortion groups tout as a perfect solution for women who have had unprotected sex. However, the morning-after pill is simply a higher dose birth control pill, which works through the same mechanisms used in all oral contraceptives.
Education on the effects of oral contraceptives is important. Using the pill may seem like an easy way to regulate one's family size, but the risks must be considered.