What exactly is “abortifacient” birth control?

Contraceptives are methods of birth control that place a physical barrier between sperm and egg, such as condoms and diaphragms. By contrast, abortifacients are hormonal-based methods of birth control that often cause early abortions. In 2015, about 7.4 million American women were using such methods.The principal method of abortifacient birth control is “the Pill,” which first became widely used in the late 1960s and helped fuel the Sexual Revolution.

abortifacient birth control

There are three key things you should know about birth control pills.

1. The Pill Often Causes Early Abortions

“Contraceptive” means a method of birth control prevents fertilization of the egg by the sperm by placing a physical barrier between them. However, all birth control pills and the other hormone-based methods of birth control on the market today function as abortifacients part of the time. The Pill often ends early pregnancies by preventing implantation of an already fertilized egg, or very early human being.

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 combination pill and the progestin-only “mini‑pill.”

The old high-dosage pills were rarely abortifacient in their modes of action. The pills mostly 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 occasionally abortifacient in their actions.

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 has between 0.05 and 3.0 milligrams of a variety of compounds containing progestin and between 0.01 and 0.05 milligrams of artificial estrogen in the form of ethinyl estradiol or mestranol, a tremendous drop in estrogenic potency compared to the high‑dose pills.3

The newer low‑dosage combination and progestin-only pills have three modes of action:4

  • The first of the three modes of action is the suppression of ovulation. When a woman ingests birth control pills, they hijack her reproductive system. Her body is hormonally “tricked” into acting as if it is continuously pregnant. 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.”

 

Birth Control Pills Today

There are now more than 200 brands and varieties of progestin/estrogen birth control pills on the market. All of them — from Alesse to Zovia — sometimes prevent implantation of the developing human being. The low‑dose pills work in essentially the same manner as the old 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 all of the newer oral “contraceptive” pills act as abortifacients at least part of the time.5

young woman swallowing birth control pill

Women who use these pills thus frequently conceive. In order to prevent the continuation of 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 a wide range of 2% to 65% of their cycles, depending upon the pill formulation used.6

The mechanisms of action of mini‑pills (progestin‑only pills, or POPs) are similar to that of the standard progestin/estrogen birth control pills.7 These progestin-only pills interfere with implantation by affecting the endometrium, thickening the cervical mucus, and suppressing ovulation in some women by reducing the presence of follicle‑stimulating hormone (FSH).

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.”8

2. The Birth Control Pill Has Serious Side Effects

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

Enovid and other high‑dose pills have generally fallen out of favor in the United States. However, they are still used in some developing countries. They 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.

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.  However, the patient information pamphlets for the various brands of birth control continue to feature a long list of very serious side effects, including venous thromboembolism (VTE), stroke, hyperkalemia (high potassium levels), carcinomas of the breasts and reproductive organs, liver disease, high blood pressure and gallbladder disease.  They also list a host of less dangerous side effects, to include headaches and nausea, weight gain, back pain, bleeding irregularities, depression and breast tenderness, most of which have an incidence of between 8% and 33%.9

3. Pharmaceutical Companies Test Birth Control on Poor Women

“Progressives” frequently virtue signal by bragging about their “responsible and non-exploitative” methods of consumption. But they have no problem at all with the horrible way that poor women in other nations have been treated by the big pharmaceutical corporations when testing their birth control products.

packet of abortifacient contraceptive pills

In keeping with its defensive anti‑lawsuit strategy, Searle tested its Enovid birth control pill on poor Puerto Rican women before concluding in 1961 that it was safe for women in North America and Europe to use.10

Experimentation on foreign women has been a typical tactic of the leading pharmaceutical corporations. They have often tested abortifacient birth control chemicals and devices on poor women in developing countries to make any mistakes or serious health problems easier to cover up. Poor women in these nations had little recourse when their health was 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 corrupt local or national governments. We do not know if such testing on poor women in developing nations is still being conducted. This may be due to worldwide condemnation of such practices in the past, causing a greater degree of secrecy, or a move to all-animal testing.

One of the most dangerous population suppression organizations on earth, the Population Council, produced the insertable abortifacient Norplant. The Population Council was funded in this effort by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and tested Norplant on poor women in several Asian nations. Doctors testing the drug refused to remove it from Bangladeshi women who were suffering horribly from its disastrous side effects. Korean women were not informed that Norplant was experimental and were not told of any side effects. Many women were bribed to use the drug and instructed not to report side effects so that the test program results would be skewed to show lower rates of health problems. When women became too sick to avoid seeking medical attention, proper care was withheld from them.11

Summary

Although it is routinely referred to as the “oral contraceptive pill” or OCP, the Pill is not conception control, or contraception. Though that may have been the original intention, developments in medicine have led to the creation of pills and other devices that also act as abortifacients in cases where conception is not prevented. Some of these have truly Orwellian names such as the IUCD, the “Intrauterine Contraceptive Device,” and the UTS, or “Uterine Therapeutic System.”12

In other words, oral “contraceptives” are not true contraceptives.

Endnotes

[1] ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States 2019 (Bethesda, Maryland, Proquest LLC), 2018 (7th Edition). Table 103, “Current Contraceptive Use Among Women by Race/Ethnicity, Age and Method: 1995 to 2015.”

[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] Review of about 150 pill compositions in patient information pamphlets downloaded from the National Institute for Health’s website DailyMed. Birth control pills contain artificial progestins with many different formulations, including levenorgestrel, norethindrone, desogestrel, drospirenone, norgestrel, ethynodiol diacetate and gestodene.

[4] A.S. Medication Solutions. Yasmin patient information pamphlet, August 2017. Section 12.1, “Clinical Pharmacology:  Mechanism of Action.” The patient information pamphlets for all of the more than 200 brands of birth control pills are similar.

[5]Patient information pamphlets downloaded from the National Institute for Health’s website DailyMed.

[6] Walter L. Larimore, M.D. and Joseph B. Stanford, M.D., M.S.P.H. “Postfertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and Their Relationship to Informed Consent.” Archives of Family Medicine (American Medical Association), February 2000 (Volume 9). Interestingly, a postscript by Dr. Larimore describes how he and his wife stopped using the birth control pill and how he stopped prescribing it due to its abortifacient action. To see a complete book on the abortifacient action of the birth control pill, which includes citations of many scientific studies on this topic, read Randy Alcorn’s Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

[7]Patient information pamphlets for several mini-pills, including Camila, Errin, Heather, Jencycla and Jolivette, all dated from 2015 to 2017.

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

[9]  A.S. Medication Solutions. Yasmin patient information pamphlet, August 2017.  Section 12.1, “Clinical Pharmacology:  Mechanism of Action.” The patient information pamphlets for all of the more than 200 brands of birth control pills are similar.

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

[11] UBINIG (Bangladesh) Research Report. “Norplant, the Five-Year Needle: An Investigation of the Norplant Trial in Bangladesh from the User’s Perspective.” Reproductive and Genetic Engineering: Journal of International Feminist Analysis, 1990 (Volume 3, Number 3); Elizabeth Sobo. “NORPLANT: Lab-Tested on Third World Women.” Our Sunday Visitor, February 3, 1991, pages 10 and 11.

[12]  E.B. Connell. “The Uterine Therapeutic System: A New Approach to Female Contraception.” Contemporary OB/GYN, June 1975, pages 49 to 55.

35 Comments

  1. Karen Rotter on May 8, 2019 at 7:24 PM

    Is Norinyl 1/50 an abortafacient?

    • HLI Staff on May 10, 2019 at 2:15 PM

      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!

      • B. Smith on June 13, 2019 at 9:33 AM

        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

        • HLI Staff on June 26, 2019 at 9:04 AM

          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. Jason on June 8, 2019 at 12:45 PM

    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.

    • HLI Staff on June 17, 2019 at 1:49 PM

      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.

    • Rem Nanta on February 24, 2020 at 7:13 PM

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

  3. Mary Kay Brown RN on July 15, 2019 at 3:00 AM

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

    • Marie on July 18, 2019 at 1:37 PM

      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.

      • HLI Staff on July 24, 2019 at 11:51 AM

        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. Shane on July 30, 2019 at 9:02 PM

    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?

    • HLI Staff on July 31, 2019 at 11:41 AM

      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.

      • Shane on July 31, 2019 at 5:00 PM

        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.

        • HLI Staff on October 4, 2019 at 9:26 AM

          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.

      • Loretta Hoffman on September 26, 2019 at 6:17 PM

        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???

        • HLI Staff on September 27, 2019 at 12:02 PM

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

  5. Virginia Dolajak on September 26, 2019 at 3:15 PM

    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.

    • HLI Staff on September 27, 2019 at 12:03 PM

      Thanks for your input, Virginia.

  6. Beth Praught on September 28, 2019 at 5:21 PM

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

  7. Anonymous on October 17, 2019 at 10:04 PM

    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.

    • HLI Staff on October 29, 2019 at 9:14 AM

      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. Miku on October 23, 2019 at 2:50 PM

    Then which birth controls are non abortive

    • HLI Staff on October 29, 2019 at 9:16 AM

      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.

      • Rosa on March 15, 2020 at 3:14 PM

        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

        • HLI Staff on March 17, 2020 at 10:05 AM

          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.

  9. jbr on November 3, 2020 at 6:12 AM

    Thank you HL1 staff for your work and your clear answers to comments.

  10. LARRY on March 14, 2021 at 5:41 PM

    From “The Heavens Opened” by Anna Rountree-
    “Our God can speak to the spirit of a child from conception. Its spirit can respond from the beginning of life in the womb.”
    From “A Divine Revelation of Hell” by Mary K Baxter-
    “From the time of conception, that is a soul. My angels go down and bring the children to Me when they die. I have a place where they can grow, learn and be loved.”

  11. Anonymous on April 20, 2021 at 8:43 PM

    One little known fact is how susceptible the pill is to heat. Sustained exposure to 125 F is not enough usually to melt or discolor the packaging or the pill, but it will turn the pill into a harmless placebo. 125F is about the same temperature as a clothes dryer of food dehydrator. 10-15 hours is ideal to eliminate the efficacy of the hormones. Exposure to heat at intervals over several days is typically the most practical approach.

    • Prolife on June 16, 2021 at 3:19 AM

      God bless you for sharing these wonderful facts about how simple it is for an originally devil made pill to be transformed into something so harmless, that could lead to the creation of something so wonderful:)

      • Anonymous on June 18, 2021 at 7:13 AM

        Thank you. Spread the word and take action!

      • Anonymous on June 19, 2021 at 10:54 AM

        I love this!!! Neutralizing the poisons in these pills transforms them from abortifacients to an aid to motherhood. It’s a very special kind of placebo effect, isn’t it? A harmless little pill is all it takes to persuade her to give her womb to her husband to fill in the procreative act as God and nature created her.

  12. Worried and concerned on April 22, 2021 at 7:03 PM

    My oldest daughter is married but childless after three years because even though she is a Catholic and regularly attends mass and is part of parish life, she is on the pill. She is very open with me so I know there is no health reason. She just wants to focus on her career. I have access to her pills. I really want to use the instructions posted here to get rid of the pill’s poisons, but it feels sneaky. I just know once she’s pregnant it will change her heart for the better. I haven’t been able to reach her any other way.

    • J on April 27, 2021 at 7:22 AM

      Dear worried and concerned,
      If you saw your daughter putting a bottle of drain cleaner to her lips, you would rush forward and knock it away immediately. And yet you hesitate when she is killing your grandchildren in her womb? You know what you should do.

    • Prolife on June 15, 2021 at 4:53 AM

      The pill’s poisons extend far beyond the prevention of forming your grandchild, for they increase your daughter’s weight and put her at high risk for forming blood clots that could lead to her having a heart attack or stroke:( In addition to the health risk they create, the longer she has been exposed to the pill’s poisons, the greater the risk for her to experience fertility problems which could result in her having problems conceiving once she finally decides to :0! If her pills were to fail;), then this might be just what she needs in order to strengthen her religious and family values:) You’ll feel good when she starts to complain of God’s natural mild side effects of nausea and sore tender breasts as the cells of a new life continue to divide and grow:) Once she discovers she is pregnant it will not only make the both of you very happy but, it will strengthen your bond to each other and to God. Plus, once she experiences the joy of life growing inside her, this may be just what she needs to convince her to forever ditch the pill. This will help her re-discover her faith by using natural methods of BC that will hopefully lead to God blessing her with many more children and you with many more grandchildren:)

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