Tag archives: Contraception

Does Contraception Reduce Abortion?

by Family Research Council

November 13, 2012

Libby Anne, of Love, Joy, Feminism, recently blogged about “How [She] Lost Faith in the ‘Pro-Life’ Movement.” Marc Barnes addresses Libby Anne’s statements in a three-part blog post series. I won’t speak to his first two posts, but the third, entitled “Does Contraception Reduce the Abortion Rate? (Rebuttal Part 3),” addresses the oft-repeated argument that if pro-lifers are unhappy about the number of abortions taking place in the United States, we should make sure condoms show up as an item on adolescents’ school supply lists and not complain about the HHS mandate that insurance plans cover contraception without copay.

Mr. Barnes covers a variety of arguments, including the apples-to-oranges nature of comparisons of Eastern and Western Europe’s contraception use/abortion rates, but here’s one reason he argues contraception may not actually reduce abortion:

As Guttmacher researcher Stanley Henshaw noted in his review Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, contraceptive users appear to have been more motivated to prevent births than were nonusers. The CDC has consistently reported that the majority of abortions are performed on women who were using contraception at the time of their last menstrual cycle, that is, at the time they conceived. If contraceptive users are more motivated to have abortions than non-contraceptive users, then it is not ridiculous to posit that the increased use of contraception in the USA was a major factor in the simultaneous increase in abortions…The use of contraception is the attempt to have sex while avoiding having children. To conceive a child despite using contraception means that that attempt has failed. If the attempt fails, then that newly created human life naturally represents a failure. The contraceptive mentality a mentality I believe can exist whether or not one uses specifically uses contraceptive devices while having sex carries over into pregnancy. If I want to avoid a child while having sex, chances are I will want to avoid a child when my partner becomes pregnant.

The author goes on to state that, of course, not all couples who use any form of contraception will go on to abort their child, should they conceive. I would argue this is particularly true among Evangelical Christians, many of whom have not been advised by their clergy to eschew contraception but most of whom oppose abortion. Regardless, Mr. Barness point stands: It may be that members of a society lulled into a false sense of security about its ability to have sex without consequences are more likely to abort than those not using contraception at all.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Contraceptive Revolution

by Sharon Barrett

October 11, 2012

As MARRI intern Alex Schrider points out in Student Debate: Taxing Conscience, the HHS contraceptive mandate is a direct attack on religious freedom. It does more than require employers to deny their personal beliefs about life and contraception; it forces many (primarily conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protesants) to violate church teachings and religious convictions..

This is significant for more reasons than the obvious wrong of asking religious Americans to violate their conscience. It represents an attack on religion itself.

Historically, religious practice formed the fabric of American culture. From New England Puritans to Maryland Roman Catholics, colonists came to the New World seeking religious freedom. After the nation was established, revival meetings helped unify the ragged frontier. Immigrants from all ends of the globe relied on religion to keep their families and communities intact.

The twentieth century, however, saw a cultural about-face. The ostensibly conservative, religious postwar era gave way to urban riots and juvenile delinquency. America left the 1950s baby boom for the 1960s free love movement, followed by four decades of increase in non-marital births and decrease in the overall birth rate.


MARRIs Patrick Fagan and Henry Potrykus suggest part of the impetus behind this shift:

The contraceptive mindset…is of one cloth with the West shifting its economic orientation from family enterprise to individualist labor activity while simultaneously moving from religious to secular social values.

The Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century weakened both family life and the American economy, because industrialism severed the workplace from the home. Urbanization in the twentieth century further undermined ties to family and local community. As this shift happened, the religious values that emphasized marriage and the family as a context for childbearing also declined.

The shift in values has economic effects, as Alex Schrider explains:

MARRI has documented the effects of widespread contraceptive use: when birthrate decreases, the average age of a population increases, eventually leading to population decline. An aging and declining population is associated with economic problems, not the least of which is the substantial burden placed on the shoulders of the smaller, younger generation, which must provide for the disproportionately large elderly generation.

There is a solution, but it does not lie in the HHS mandate. Rather, according to Fagan and Potrykus,

Remediation lies in a re-adoption of stable marriage as a societal norm and the rejection by governments and peoples of this non-sustainable model of society a religious, sexually polymorphous, serial polygamy and its replacement by a less secular, more traditional, family-oriented life.

Rebuilding our culture and economy requires us to return to family-oriented values. To start this process, our culture must return to religion, which creates these values. The federal government should not attack the very bedrock of society with an ill-conceived mandate that smothers religious freedom.

Emergency Contraception: We need an unbiased review of the facts

by Family Research Council

June 7, 2012

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article by science writer Pam Belluck titled Abortion Qualms on Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded. The research piece that had been long in the works and its release was strategic, given our national focus on the Administrations contraceptive mandate. Belluck focused on the mechanisms of action of Emergency Contraceptives (EC), or what exactly happens when ECs are used. Bellucks thesis? ECs do not prevent implantation and therefore are not abortifacients. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to prove her theory Ms. Belluck left out a lot of critical information that astute readers have every right to know.

Dr. Donna Harrison, a board-certified OBGYN, responded to Bellucks piece yesterday, NYT Convolution of Facts. I highly recommend reading this piece in its entirety but additionally I am highlighting a few key points below and including quotes from both articles.

1) The research question at hand is specifically Plan Bs potential to prevent implantation. Dr. Harrison explains the science behind how Plan B works and then connects this to the heart of the debate. Plan B is a progestin, a type of progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that must be in a womans body for her to be able to allow the embryo to implant and develop the placental connections between the embryo and the mother. But Plan B is a very large dose of progesterone, higher than the womans body would normally make. It is the effect of that high dose which is under debate.

2) Conflicting Research. There are a number of studies indicating that Plan B prevents implantation and more recently a few studies that do not support this. Unfortunately, however, for Ms. Bellucks readers, her piece makes it sound as though one can act with certainty that Plan B does not prevent ovulation. But Richard Doerflinger associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had a nice quote responding to Ms. Belluck, I would be relieved if it doesnt have this effect….So far what I see is an unresolved debate and some studies on both sides. He also noted that because of difficulties in ethically testing the drugs on women, its not only unresolved, but it may be unresolvable.

3) Collapsing Plan B and Ella. Plan B and Ella are completely different drugs with very different modes of action. Ms. Belluck created confusion by conflating these two drugs in her piece and made broad claims that would extend to all ECs. According to Dr. Harrison, lumping together two very different drugs and calling them morning-after pills allows for clever confusion of what is known about the mechanism of action of each drug, and the role of progesterone in helping the embryo to implant and sustain the pregnancy.

4) Studies show that Ella can cause an abortion pre and post implantation.

Dr. Harrison noted the following:

Ella is a second-generation derivative of the abortion drug RU-486, and is equipotent with RU-486 in blocking the action of progesterone at the level of the ovary and endometrium, one of the facts I explain in my paper on this topic. Indeed, if taken before a woman ovulates, Ella will interfere with progesterone action and prevent the egg from being released. But the critically important question is what happens when you take Ella after ovulation. And the answer is clear. Ella blocks the action of progesterone at the level of the ovary, and blocks the action of progesterone at the endometrium, both of which interfere with implantation.

5) Dr. Trussell is, err, chameleon-like. Dr. James Trussell is quoted as a major researcher in the NYT piece and his research is key to the Department of Health and Human Services ASPE brief on the cost effectiveness of the contraceptive mandate. Dr. Trussell conveniently changes his message about the drugs efficaciousness to fit with the abortion industrys goal du jour. Dr. Harrison makes the following comment, [a]nd here, abortion proponents speak out of both sides of their mouth. The quote from Trussell in theNYT article was particularly amusing. If you read his previous research papers, sometimes he claims over 90 percent efficacy from Plan B, and sometimes he claims around 50 percent efficacy. Why these differences? Well, as he so readily admits, you cant get numbers of 90 percent efficacy without some sort of post-fertilization effect. So when the issue of mechanism of action is raised, suddenly the efficacy for Plan B gets adjusted to what would be expected from a drug with no post-fertilization effect. But, when issues of funding arise … well Plan B becomes much more effective.

6) Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) prevent implantation. Well here is one point that I will give to Ms. Belluck. She acknowledges that certain copper IUDs (yes, included in the contraceptive mandate) can prevent implantation of a newly fertilized embryo. scientists say, research suggests that … the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.

In the end, this conversation requires caution and continued unbiased research. The difference between preventing and destroying life is immensely significant to women who choose to take these drugs. Women have the right to know about all of the scientific research, not merely the research supporting an individual ideology.

Conscience Rights At Stake as HHS Considers Mandates for Abortifacients in Obamacare

by Family Research Council

July 19, 2011

NPR ran a story today on the Institute of Medicines report to be released tomorrow which will include a list of recommended services to be covered with no cost-sharing under the Obamacare law.

But there are a few key points that NPR did not include. The real issue is not about “birth control” as such but rather about specific contraceptives that can function as abortifacients, in particular, emergency contraceptives. This isnt a matter of opinion or political ideology. The FDA approved label for Plan B suggests it can prevent implantation of an embryo. Moreover, the most recently approved EC, “ella”, is chemically similar to RU-486 and it may destroy an embryo after it is already implanted.

Additionally, this is a question of whether the government should mandate every health plan to cover these drugs free of cost. Whatever one’s position is on the issues of contraceptives, abortifacients, and such, it does not matter whether proponents of such drugs do not care about the effect on human embryos. The point is that many Americans do care, and many religious health plans would care, and that they should not be forced to violate their conscience. Non-discrimination laws are in effect for this very reason. The IOM recommendations will potentially require people who are not in favor of these drugs to cover and participate in something they find objectionable. You don’t have to agree with such objections, but at the same time people should not be forced to violate their consciences.

Here is our letter to HHS with more information.

And here is more information on ella, taken from my public comments at the second IOM meeting on January 12, 2011:

While the FDA approved the drug application of Ella as an emergency contraceptive, this drug is known to be chemically and functionally similar to the abortifacient drug, RU-486. In a study published this month in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, the mechanism of action of ulipristal in human ovarian and endometrial tissue is identical to that of its parent compound, mifepristone.[1]

In one study of ulipristal on monkeys, 4 out of 5 fetuses were aborted.[2] On one with rats, all were aborted.[3] [E]xisting studies in animals are instructive in terms of the potential abortive effects of the drug in humans.[4]

A recent study concluded that it can be reasonably expected that the prescribed dose of 30 mg of ulipristal will have an abortive effect on early pregnancy in humans.[5] This is the dose of ulipristal now available as an EC in the United States.

[1] Harrison, D, Mitroka, J Defining Reality: The Potential Role of Pharmacists in Assessing the Impact of Progesterone Receptor Modulators and Misoprostol in Reproductive Health. Annals of Pharmacotherapy January 2011, Volume 45

[2] European Medicines Agency.CHMP assessment report for EllaOne. (Doc.Ref.: EMEA/261787/2009). London,UK. www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/EPAR_Public_assessment_report/human/001027/WC500023673.pdf (accessed 2010 Dec 9).

[3] Food and Drug Administration. Mifeprex label. www.accessdata.fda/gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2000/20687lbl.htm (accessed 2010 Sept 26).

[4] Harrison, D and Mitroka, J Defining Reality: The Potential Role of Pharmacists in Assessing the Impact of Progesterone Receptor Modulators and Misoprostol in Reproductive Health. Annal of Pharmacotherapy January 2011, Volume 45

[5] Ibid

Guttmacher: 54% of Women Who Aborted in 2008 Were Using Contraception

by Family Research Council

March 4, 2011

As Family Research Council has previously reported increasing access to contraception does not decrease the number of abortions. In fact, studies show quite the opposite.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its allies are banging the “family planning decreases the abortion rate” drum on Capitol Hill these days. However the Guttmacher Institute, previously PPFA’s own research arm, reports that over half the number women who had an abortion in 2008 —54%— were using a form of contraception during the month they got pregnant.

In the words of Kristin Powers, who blogged on this story earlier today, “what is truly astonishing about the Guttmacher statistics is that they are completely unchanged from a decade ago.”

She is correct. This is not new. Family Research Council wrote on this very topic in our Top Ten Myths of Abortion piece a few years ago,

In the United States, a decrease in contraceptive use in recent years correlates to a decrease in the number of abortions. From 1995 to 2002, the rate of contraceptive use decreased from 64 percent to 62 percent,43 while the number of abortions fell from 1,359,400 to 1,293,000. Contraceptive Use, Facts in Brief, The Alan Guttmacher Institute (March, 2005). These numbers represent use among all women age 15-44, and thus, because many women in this age group would not be sexually active, the rate of use among sexually active women would be higher.

There is more. A study recently published in Contraception conducted in Spain from 1997-2007 showed as contraceptive use increased from a rate of 49.1 to 79.9%, simultaneously the elective abortion rate increased from 5.52 to 11.49 per 1000 women.

[R]esearch here and abroad shows that increasing access to contraception is not a solution to the problem of soaring abortion rates. In fact, it makes the problem worse. In Sweden, for example, an increase in affordable access to contraception and the presence of free contraceptive counseling have resulted in a substantial increase in the teen abortion rate. The abortion rate has climbed from 17 abortions per thousand teens in 1995 to 22.5 abortions per thousand teens in 2001.(Edgardh, K., et al., Adolescent Sexual Health in Sweden, Sexual Transmitted Infections 78 (2002): 352-6)

According to Professor Peter Arcidiacono of Duke University, increasing teenagers access to contraception may actually increase long run pregnancy rates even though short run pregnancy rates fall. On the other hand, policies that decrease access to contraception, and hence sexual activity, are likely to lower pregnancy rates in the long run. Peter Arcidiacono, et al., Habit Persistence and Teen Sex: Could Increased Contraception Have Unintended Consequences for Teen Pregnancies? (Oct. 3, 2005), Working Paper, p. 29.