Abortifacient Brief: The Birth Control Pill

The majority of women who want to inhibit their fertility now turn to the birth control pill.  “The Pill” became widely used in the late 1960s and was hailed as a panacea, and it also helped fuel the ‘Sexual Revolution.’  About 10.7 million American women now use this method of artificial birth control.[1]

Convenience‑minded women in general either do not know or no longer care that all birth control pills on the market today function as abortifacients part of the time.  In fact, the introduction of such proven abortifacients as Norplant/Jadelle/Nexplanon and RU‑486 may cause the percentage of women using the birth control pill to decline substantially in the near future.  Of course, the misleading name “oral contraceptive” helps misdirect women as well.  Since the Pill ends early pregnancies part of the time by preventing implantation, it is better understood as a “birth control” pill and not a pure contraceptive.

The historically sharp dividing line between birth control and abortion has been entirely obliterated by the “New Abortionists” — the pharmaceutical corporations.

The High-Dose Pill

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.”

The Searle Pharmaceutical Corporation developed the first birth control pill, Enovid, in the late 1950s.  In keeping with its defensive anti‑lawsuit strategy, the company 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]

Experimentation on foreign women is a typical tactic of the major pharmaceutical companies.  They often test 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 big pharma brings huge amounts of money to their homelands, and any protest against the testing programs can easily be suppressed by local or national governments.

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.[3]

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.

The Low‑Dose Pill

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 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.[4]

Each of the newer low‑dose pills contain from 0.05 to 3.0 milligrams of a variety of compounds containing progestin[5] 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.[6]

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, and the low‑dose pills prevent implantation of the new human life, thereby acting more often as abortifacients.  Several studies have shown that women on the low-dose birth control pills experience an early “silent abortion” during 5 to 13 percent of their cycles.[7]

The Mini‑Pill

Scientists have not pinpointed the primary mechanism of action of mini‑pills (progestin‑only pills), although women who use them frequently ovulate.  Therefore, these pills often function as abortifacients.

It is known that pills that contain only progestin alter the cervical mucus.  They also 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.”[8]  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.”[9]

In other words, the Pill is now truly abortifacient “birth prevention” ― not conception control, as may have originally been intended when the first oral contraceptives were being developed.

Summary of How Birth Control Pills Work

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 thickened cervical mucus and inhibited ovulation, but they generally did not inhibit implantation of the developing human being in the uterine lining.

The newer low‑dosage pills have three modes of action.  They thicken cervical mucus, inhibit ovulation, and block implantation.

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 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.”

In summary, the older “high‑dose” birth control pills functioned mainly by inhibiting ovulation and affecting the cervical mucus, making them primarily two‑fold in function.  Sometimes, however, breakthrough ovulation occurred, and so the older pills were only occasionally abortifacient in their actions.

There are now more than 120 brands and varieties of birth control pills on the market.[10]  All of them — from Alesse to Zovia — sometimes prevent implantation of the developing human being impossible.  This means that all of the newer oral contraceptive pills act as abortifacients at least part of the time.

 

Endnotes

[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 Web site.

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

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

[5] The relative strengths of the various progestin compounds are desogestrel (1 milligram = 9.0 milligrams of progestational activity relative to 1.0 milligrams of norethindrone); drospirenone (1.5); ethyndiol diacetate (1.4); etonogestrel; levonorgestrel (5.3); norelgestromin (norgestimate metabolite) (1.3); norethindrone acetate (1.2) and norgestrel [Frederick R. Jelovsek, M.D., M.S.  “Which Oral Contraceptive Pill is Best for Me?”  Table entitled “Estrogen and Progestin Hormone Doses in Combined Birth Control Pills.”  http://www.wdxcyber.com/ncontr13.htm, October 29, 2014].

[6] 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.

[7]  For a detailed scientific discussion of how many “silent abortions” are caused by abortifacients, see Randy Alcorn’s book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions [Gresham, Oregon:  Eternal Perspective Ministries], 2007.  This book is available online at http://www.epm.org/static/uploads/downloads/bcpill.pdf.  According to the references in this book, “silent abortions” can take place during anywhere from 5% to 13% of all cycles.

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

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

[10] eMedTV’s “List of Birth Control Pills” at http://women.emedtv.com/birth-control-pills/list-of-birth-control-pills.html, October 28, 2014.

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