Abortifacient Brief: The Birth Control Pill

Abortifacient Brief: The Birth Control Pill

By |2020-09-29T19:42:06-04:00April 13th, 2017|Categories: Abortifacients, Abortion, Contraception|Tags: , , , |

What exactly is abortifacient birth control? Essentially, it’s a contraceptive that actually can cause early abortion. The majority of women who want to inhibit their fertility (as of 2012, about 10.7 million Americans[1]) turn to such methods. The principal method of abortifacient birth control is “the Pill,” which first became widely used in the late 1960’s and helped fuel the Sexual Revolution.

Here are 5 things you should know about birth control pills.

packet of abortifacient contraceptive pills

#1. The Pill can cause abortion.

The term “contraceptive” indicates that the results prevent a woman from being fertile at all. However, all birth control pills on the market today function as abortifacients part of the time.  The Pill ends early pregnancies part of the time by preventing implantation of an already fertilized egg.

How does this happen?

Over the past half-century, three general classes of birth control pill have been manufactured in the United States and other countries — the high‑dose pill, the low‑dose pill and the progestin-only “mini‑pill.”

Users of the old high‑dosage birth control pills experienced relatively severe side effects.  These pills were considered non‑abortifacient in their two‑fold modes of action.  The pills generally worked by thickening cervical mucus and inhibiting ovulation, but not by preventing implantation of a developing human being in the uterine lining. Sometimes, however, breakthrough ovulation occurred, and so the older pills were only occasionally abortifacient in their actions.

The newer low‑dosage pills have three modes of action:

  • The first of the three modes of action is the suppression of ovulation.  When the female reproductive system is functioning normally, the hypothalamus (the part of the brain containing the vital autonomic regulatory centers) controls the release of gonadotropin‑releasing hormone (GnRH), which signals the pituitary gland to secrete luteinizing hormone (LH), which in turn assists ovulation and coordinates the release of estrogen and progestin from the ovaries. When a woman ingests birth control pills, they hijack her reproductive system.  The pills cause her ovaries to maintain a steady high level of estrogen and/or progestin production, depending upon the type and brand of pill being used.  Thus, her body is hormonally “tricked” into acting as if it is continuously pregnant.  The hypothalamus adjusts to this high level of hormone secretion and greatly decreases GnRH production.  Therefore, the production of luteinizing hormone by the pituitary gland is also inhibited, and ovulation either ceases or is drastically curtailed. During those months that ovulation is suppressed, the mode of action of the birth control pill is contraceptive (not abortifacient) in nature.


  • The second mode of action of the birth control pill is also contraceptive in nature.  The pills cause changes in the consistency and acidity of cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to penetrate and live in the cervix.


  • The third mode of action of the birth control pill is abortifacient.  The pills cause changes in the endometrium (lining of the uterus), making implantation more difficult.  Examinations show that the abortifacient birth control pill transforms the endometrium from a welcoming, lush forest into a barren, sterile desert.  In a cycle where ovulation was not prevented and fertilization takes place, the pill causes a “silent abortion.”

abortifacient birth control

There are now more than 120 brands and varieties of birth control pills on the market.  All of them — from Alesse to Zovia — sometimes prevent implantation of the developing human being.  This means that all of the newer oral contraceptive pills act as abortifacients at least part of the time.

#2. The high-dose pill has serious side effects.

The Searle Pharmaceutical Corporation developed the first birth control pill, Enovid, in the late 1950s.

Enovid and other high‑dose pills, which have generally fallen out of favor in the United States but are still used in some developing countries, contain from 1 to 12 milligrams of progestin and/or 60 to 120 micrograms of estrogen, a natural female hormone.  This high dosage had a variety of side effects, including blurred vision, nausea, weight gain, breast pain, cramping, irregular menstrual bleeding, headaches, and possibly breast cancer.[2]

Beginning in about 1975, pill makers, reacting to extensive publicity about the severe side effects of the high‑dosage pills, steadily decreased the content of estrogen and progestin in their products.

#3. Pharmaceutical companies use the poor to test abortifacient birth control.

In keeping with its defensive anti‑lawsuit strategy, Searle tested the Pill on poor Puerto Rican women before concluding in 1961 that it was safe for women on the American mainland to use.[2]

sad young woman

Experimentation on foreign women is a typical tactic of the major pharmaceutical companies.  They often test abortifacient birth control chemicals and devices on poor women in developing countries so any mistakes or serious health problems are easier to cover up.  Poor women in these nations have little recourse when their health is destroyed or damaged by this kind of testing, because the investments of large pharmaceutical companies brings huge amounts of money to their homelands, and any protest against the testing programs can easily be suppressed by local or national governments.

#4. The high-dose pill was replaced by a pill that causes frequent abortion.

Eventually the older “high‑dose” pills gave way to the new “low‑dose” pills.  Ortho/Johnson & Johnson, G.D. Searle/Monsanto, and Syntex, the three largest manufacturers of abortifacient birth control pills in the United States, voluntarily withdrew their “high‑dose” products from the U.S. market in 1988 on the advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  These were among the last commercially‑available pills in the United States containing more than 50 micrograms of estrogen.[2]

Each of the newer low‑dose pills contain from 0.05 to 3.0 milligrams of a variety of compounds containing progestin and from 0.01 to 0.05 milligrams of estrogen in the form of ethinyl estradiol or mestranol, a tremendous drop in estrogenic potency compared to the high‑dose pills.[3]

The low‑dose pills work in essentially the same manner as the high‑dose pill.  However, a much higher percentage of ovulation occurs in women who use the low‑dose pills due to their lower estrogen dose.  This means that women who use these pills frequently conceive.  In order to prevent pregnancies in these cases, the low‑dose pills also prevent implantation, thereby acting as back-up abortifacients.  Several studies have shown that women on the low-dose birth control pills experience an early “silent abortion” during 5–13% of their cycles.

young woman swallowing birth control pill

#5. The mini‑pill is usually an abortifacient.

Scientists have not pinpointed the primary mechanism of action of mini‑pills (progestin‑only pills).  However, women who use them frequently ovulate.

It is known that pills that contain only progestin alter the cervical mucus.  They interfere with implantation by affecting the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and suppressing ovulation in some women by reducing the presence of follicle‑stimulating hormone (FSH).

This mechanism is confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration, which has stated that “Progestin‑only contraceptives are known to alter the cervical mucus, exert a progestinal effect on the endometrium, interfere with implantation, and, in some patients, suppress ovulation.”[4]  This is not a new finding: the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in its 1984 pamphlet “Facts about Oral Contraceptives,” compared the performance of high‑dose pills to mini‑pills:

It is possible for women using combined pills (synthetic estrogen and progestin) to ovulate.  Then other mechanisms work to prevent pregnancy.  Both kinds of pills make the cervical mucus thick and “inhospitable” to sperm, discouraging any entry to the uterus.  In addition, they make it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant, by causing changes in Fallopian tube contractions and in the uterine lining.  These actions explain why the minipill works, as it generally does not suppress ovulation [emphasis added].

The manufacturers of the mini‑pills acknowledge this mode of action.  For example, Syntex Laboratories announced that its progestin‑only pill Norinyl “did not interfere with ovulation….It seems to affect the endometrium so that a fertilized egg cannot be implanted.”[5]


The Pill is not conception control. Though that may have been the original intention, the developments of medicine have led to the creation of contraceptives which also act as abortifacients in cases where conception is not prevented.

Hence, oral contraceptives are not true contraceptives but abortifacient birth control.




[1] United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.  Reference Data Book and Guide to Sources, Statistical Abstract of the United States [Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office], 2012 (132nd Edition).  Table 98, “Current Contraceptive Use by Women, by Age, Race, Hispanic Origin, Marital, and Cohabitation Status: 2006 to 2008.”  The entire Statistical Abstract in PDF format is available on the United States Census Bureau website.

[2] Bogomir M. Kuhar, Ph.D.  “Pharmaceutical Companies:  The New Abortionists.”  Reprint 16 from Human Life International, 4 Family Life Lane, Front Royal, Virginia 22630.

[3] Robert A. Hatcher, et. alContraceptive Technology (17th Revised Edition) [New York City: Ardent Media, Inc.], 1998, Table 19‑1, “Relative Potency of Estrogens and Progestins in Currently Available Oral Contraceptives Reflecting the Debate about the Strength of the Progestins,” page 407.

[4] Federal Register, 41:236, December 7, 1976, page 53,634.

[5] United Press International news release in the Cincinnati Post, January 11, 1973.


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About the Author:

Brian Clowes, PhD
Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.


  1. Avatar
    Karen Rotter May 8, 2019 at 7:24 PM - Reply

    Is Norinyl 1/50 an abortafacient?

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff May 10, 2019 at 2:15 PM - Reply

      According to our Director of Research, all contraception pills contain the abortifacient potential. This occurs because if you see from the article, even if the egg is fertilized, that is a human being, the drug will prevent implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall. And we are all human from the moment of conception, implanted or not!

      • Avatar
        B. Smith June 13, 2019 at 9:33 AM - Reply

        Dear HLI Staff,
        How do we understand God’s meaning when a child is born without a skull? Is it God’s will for that child to be born, only to suffer and die for thirty minutes to an hour as it slowly suffocates to death in a pool of its own mucus and blood?

        Please help!! I need to know why God would do this… my faith is in Him always and forever, but watching my baby die like that has been very hard.

        ~B. Smith

        • Avatar
          HLI Staff June 26, 2019 at 9:04 AM - Reply

          The answer is a mystery of faith, we do not know why a baby may be born with a fetal abnormality, any more than we understand why other ills happen. Yet it is a struggle. Why does a mom of young children die of cancer before her children? Or why is a child killed in an auto accident? A parent says losing a child is the most painful thing imaginable, but know that before the Fall it was never God’s plan for these things to happen. While we do not know the details of your case, but palliative care should be administered to make the child as comfortable as possible. A priest should be there with you, and you should rock and hold your child as he or she passes from this earth. To abort a child with a fetal abnormality is so much worse, only the pain and dismemberment is “unseen.” Given the nature of the disability, your child may well have been in shock, was very ill, etc. and may well have felt little to nothing. We would suggest you also speak to a good priest or a counselor; as this can be helpful in working through the grieving process. We are terribly sorry for your loss and offer you our prayers. Hold tight to God; He will give you peace.

  2. Avatar
    Jason June 8, 2019 at 12:45 PM - Reply

    How can a birth control pill that prevents pregnancy cause an abortion? Abortions end pregnancies. Birth control pills prevent pregnancies. Ergo, birth control *can’t* cause an abortion. It’s impossible.

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff June 17, 2019 at 1:49 PM - Reply

      Thanks for asking Jason. This is a common misconception. First, all contraceptives have known failure rates. Second, if you read the inserts provided by the pharmaceutical companies, in cases where these are used, it is possible for an ovum to be fertilized and create an embryo – i.e. a human person – which the contraceptive then blocks from implanting in the uterus at this early stage of conception. This is what makes the contraceptives potentially abortifacient. Hope that helps.

    • Avatar
      Rem Nanta February 24, 2020 at 7:13 PM - Reply

      If I am a month delayed om my period and use pills will this cause miscarriage?

  3. Avatar
    Mary Kay Brown RN July 15, 2019 at 3:00 AM - Reply

    I wish you would quit referring to it as “a fertilized egg” its NOT! its an embryo

    • Avatar
      Marie July 18, 2019 at 1:37 PM - Reply

      Previous to implantation, it is a fertilized egg-NOT an embryo. Even without birth control, fertilized eggs fail to implant into women’s uterine lining all the time. Are those women having abortions? Those women were never pregnant, period. Please stop making things up.

      • Avatar
        HLI Staff July 24, 2019 at 11:51 AM - Reply

        Women who miscarry are not having abortions. But if one takes a contraceptive which stops the fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterine wall then yes, this is a pregnancy terminated, i.e. an early abortion. Some are unaware of this.

  4. Avatar
    Shane July 30, 2019 at 9:02 PM - Reply

    I might have missed it but I can’t see any explanation of what in the pill causes the uterine lining to thin. Is it the estrogen and/or progestin or something else?

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff July 31, 2019 at 11:41 AM - Reply

      Estrogen is required for the lining of the uterus to thicken, and so monthly periods will shed that lining. Without estrogen, there is no ovulation. After ovulation, the body produces progesterone, which stabilizes the uterine lining. But in the pill, one is taking both at the same time. So in theory one should not ovulate, nor does the uterine wall thicken, it actually can thin. This is part of the complex nature of how female hormones work.

      • Avatar
        Shane July 31, 2019 at 5:00 PM - Reply

        Thanks for the helpful clarification. Does that mean that ovulation and the endometrium work on the same system? If the pill failed to stop ovulation then would it also fail to stop the lining developing?

        Thanks again for the helpful article and responses.

        • Avatar
          HLI Staff October 4, 2019 at 9:26 AM - Reply

          Thanks Shane. You need to look at product inserts we believe, to ascertain this. If you have a product in mind and want to see that stipulated, we have thousands of inserts stored on file. However, the main issue isn’t the endometrium, it’s the abortifacient aspect which causes the fertilized embryo to fail to implant. And every birth control drug does this. See also answer below.

          Dear Shane, the endometrium lining is there regardless. Normally it sheds once a month in fertile women, to prepare an environment for the fertilized embryo to attach. If you do not ovulate, the endometrium is still there. Even those on the birth control pill still often are shedding and building a new endometrium monthly.

      • Avatar
        Loretta Hoffman September 26, 2019 at 6:17 PM - Reply

        A point of correction if I read Biology 101 correctly: A fertilized ovum (egg) is called a zygote. When it divides, it becomes an embryo. From that point, it becomes a fetus (an unborn baby). Finally, the baby becomes a born infant. We must respect all human life from the womb to the tomb and in all ages, stages and conditions. We must also remember that all of us were once zygotes, embryos and fetuses. If we fail to respect human life and give all innocent babies an opportunity to be born and to grow, we will destroy respect for human life in general. Remember: Babies first — you next! And that is happening now with the push for physician-assisted suicide laws and euthanasia as well as the increased violence in our society. Contraception began the plunge into a “Culture of Death,” which we are experiencing now in the U.S.A. and around the world. Yes, indeed, contraception and abortion were the beginning of this slippery slope of destruction which has not been beneficial to any of us and promises to bring more negative consequences to us as individuals and as a nation. A low or zero population rate will be the destruction of our country. It’s time to repent of our sins, confess and pray for God’s forgiveness, purification and His healing graces of revival and for a new appreciation and openness to the blessings of new life. Let us all begin to have a deeper respect for all human life! Our nation will become a better one if we do so. Please God, help us all to follow Your will and not our own wills! Amen???

        • Avatar
          HLI Staff September 27, 2019 at 12:02 PM - Reply

          Loretta, It is important to note science recognizes a human life begins at conception, that is, at the moment when sperm fertilizes egg.

  5. Avatar
    Virginia Dolajak September 26, 2019 at 3:15 PM - Reply

    Keep up the good work! As a cradle Catholic, reading Pope Paul VI’s writings were right on target. The Catholic Church is always put down on this and many other issues on marriage, etc. We now know the Church had it right all the time.

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff September 27, 2019 at 12:03 PM - Reply

      Thanks for your input, Virginia.

  6. Avatar
    Beth Praught September 28, 2019 at 5:21 PM - Reply

    Father Paul Marx wrote article on the pill being an abortifacient could you send this to me. God Bless you

  7. Avatar
    Anonymous October 17, 2019 at 10:04 PM - Reply

    Do you have any estimate of the annual number of abortions worldwide caused by the Pill and other abortifacient forms of birth control, such as the IUD? This would be excluding surgical abortions and explicitly chemical abortifacients, such as RU-486.

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff October 29, 2019 at 9:14 AM - Reply

      A recent report by LifeSite News estimates a billion have died in the last century. Of course, this number is very hard to pinpoint exactly.

  8. Avatar
    Miku October 23, 2019 at 2:50 PM - Reply

    Then which birth controls are non abortive

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff October 29, 2019 at 9:16 AM - Reply

      Actually Miku, all have the ability to act as an abortifacient, if you look at the inserts that come with them. This means that if an embryo is fertilized – and therefore a human being at its initial stage – many will either prevent the implantation in the uterine wall. But some can act other ways, like preventing the release of the egg, etc.

      • Avatar
        Rosa March 15, 2020 at 3:14 PM - Reply

        So when you are married what do you do, stay off the pill and get pregnant. I understand and agree with the articles. But do we have babies until you stop making babies

        • Avatar
          HLI Staff March 17, 2020 at 10:05 AM - Reply

          Good question, Rosa. The Church asks couples during the during the Rite of Marriage whether they will accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and the Church. That said, spouses have latitude when it comes to acting responsibly in their decision making about having children. The Church does allow couples to work with a woman’s natural fertility to limit or space children in discernment and openness to God’s holy will.

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