Abortifacient Brief: Depo-Provera

The birth control shot, Depo-Provera, is an injectable contraceptive drug that sometimes has an abortifacient effect. It also possesses a long and checkered history rife with fraud and abuse.



History of Depo-Provera

In 1967, Upjohn Pharmaceuticals began an extensive 11-year trial of Depo at Atlanta’s Grady Clinic in its attempts to get the drug approved for use in the United States. The injection was tested on a disproportionate number of poor, black and rural women without informed consent and without giving the women information on the drug’s serious side effects.

The study was carried out in an incredibly sloppy manner. Upjohn ignored the annual reports required by the Food and Drug Administration, lost 93% of patient records so that no follow-up studies could be done, and neglected to report deaths and very serious side effects caused by Depo.1 This meant that the data from the study was entirely meaningless and unusable. Not surprisingly, the FDA withheld approval of Depo-Provera both at the beginning and at the end of the study, not only because of the way the study was conducted, but because of a proven elevation in the risk of breast cancer among its users. In 1983, the FDA refused approval of Depo-Provera a third time.

birth control shot depo provera

Eventually, in 1992, the FDA approved the birth control injection for use in the United States over the objections of pro-life groups and even several pro-abortion women’s organizations, including the National Women’s Health Network and the National Black Women’s Health Project. Those following the proceedings were convinced that the FDA caved in under intense lobbying by Upjohn and pressure brought by population control groups.2 In June of the following year, Canada’s Department of Health and Welfare prohibited the use of Depo-Provera, saying that the drug did not meet Canadian safety standards as a method of birth control.3

International pharmaceutical giant Pharmacia & Upjohn originally owned the patent for Depo-Provera, but the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical corporation, Pfizer, now owns the drug. Pfizer also manufactures Depo-subQ Provera 104, a subcutaneous injection of DMPA using a smaller needle. This dose is promoted as Sayana Press, which is being heavily promoted primarily in African nations by Pfizer, the Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.4

Depo-Provera is now available in more than 90 countries and is particularly popular among population controllers in Africa and the Caribbean and among those “caring” for native peoples in Thailand and New Zealand.

As with all other abortifacients that may pose a danger to Western women, Depo-Provera was first extensively tested on Third World women. The World Health Organization (WHO) used Depo on more than 11,000 women in Kenya, Mexico and Thailand before it was submitted to the FDA for approval.5


How Depo-Provera Works

Depo-Provera is one of a class of steroids that employ powerful hormones to control the female reproductive system. Others in this class include birth control pills, the morning-after pill (MAP) and emergency contraception (EC), the implantables (Norplant, Jadelle and Implanon), and some of the intra-uterine devices (IUDs).

Depo-Provera’s active ingredient is depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), a synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone, originally developed for the treatment of uterine cancer in the 1950s. Women receive 150 milligrams of DMPA via deep intramuscular injection every three months.

Depo-Provera has three modes of action, similar to other methods of birth control that employ artificial progesterones as active ingredients:

  1. It prevents ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary).
  2. It inhibits the entry of sperm through the cervix by altering the cervical mucus.
  3. It alters the lining of the uterus such that, should a fertilized egg reach the uterus, it would have difficulty implanting.6

injection into armAccording to Upjohn’s patient information pamphlet on Depo-Provera, the compound “inhibits the secretion of gonadotropins which, in turn, prevents follicular maturation and ovulation and results in endometrial thinning.”7

In other words, Upjohn acknowledges that Depo-Provera sometimes acts as an abortifacient.

The authoritative Contraceptive Technology confirms that Depo-Provera causes early abortions. It alters the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) so that its degree of receptivity to the blastocyst (very early developing human being) is significantly decreased. According to Contraceptive Technology, “Other contraceptive actions include the development of a shallow and atrophic [thinning] endometrium.”8 When Depo-Provera works in this way, it is an abortifacient.

Many women’s menstrual cycles continue when using Depo-Provera, 43% after 12 months and 32% after 24 months.9 This data shows that the compound does not completely suppress ovulation in a large percentage of women who use Depo-Provera, so many early abortions occur.


Adverse Reactions to Depo-Provera

Current patient information pamphlets on Depo-Provera list more than sixty adverse reactions suffered by women who use the compound, including these:

  • Women on the birth control shot Depo-Provera report an average weight gain of 5.4 pounds in the first year and 16.5 pounds over six years.
  • Many users also experience osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) and a higher incidence of broken bones.10 The onset of osteoporosis is cumulative (gets worse the longer a woman is on Depo), remains long after the injections have ceased, and in many cases is irreversible. Because of this danger, the FDA ordered Pfizer to put a black box warning (its strongest warning) on its patient information pamphlets.11
  • In women who have used Depo-Provera for the first time within the last four years, and who are under 35 years of age, the risk of breast cancer increases 129%.12 Use of Depo-Provera may be associated with ectopic pregnancy, thrombophlebitis (inflammation of blood vessels associated with blood clots), pulmonary embolism (obstruction of the pulmonary artery by a blood clot, air bubble, or other material), cerebrovascular disorders, and partial or complete loss of vision in mothers, and polysyndactyly (webbing and extra digits of the hands and feet), hypospadias (genital tract abnormalities) and chromosomal anomalies among infants born to them.
  • More than 5% of users suffer headaches, nervousness, abdominal pain or discomfort, dizziness or asthenia (weakness or fatigue).
  • Between 1 and 5% percent report one or more of the following ailments: decreased sexual desire or anorgasmia, depression, nausea, insomnia, abnormal vaginal discharges, pelvic and breast pain, rashes, hot flashes, swelling, vaginitis and acne.
  • A study by the Gates foundation in 2011 found that Depo-Provera was likely to more than double HIV rates among African women.
  • Other serious side effects include chest pains, pulmonary embolisms, allergic reactions, anemia, racing heart rate, abnormal blood chemistry, rectal bleeding, breast lumps or nipple bleeding, paralysis, facial palsy, abnormal growth of the uterus, varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.

hospitalized woman

A woman who is suffering from the side effects of Depo-Provera is literally trapped in her own body. There is no way to rid herself of the pernicious chemical except by waiting for several months.


Abuses of the Birth Control Shot

From the point of view of a population controller, Depo-Provera is very desirable because it can be controlled by medical professionals. It also causes three or more months of sterility and requires less operator skill to implement than sterilization, implantation of Norplant, or insertion of an IUD.

Here are some instances of how population control advocates abuse poor women with Depo-Provera worldwide:

  • When my wife Kathy and I were in Uganda a year ago, we frequently saw white “Reproductive Health Unit” pickup trucks zooming through the countryside. These RHUs usually consist of two or three young men with little or no medical training who are given a few hours of instruction, a box of Depo shots and other types of birth control, and orders to go out into the country and get as many women as they can on birth control under a quota and reward system. We spoke with several groups of women who were victimized by these teams, some of whom said that they were injected with Depo after being told that it was an anti-malaria shot.
  • In January 2013, the Israeli health ministry discontinued a program targeting Ethiopian Jews in the country without informed consent.13
  • The white owners of commercial farms in Zimbabwe forced their black female workers to accept Depo shots, and as a result, the drug was banned in 1981.14
  • In 2002, after widespread abuses, the Indian government ceased distribution of both Norplant and Depo-Provera.15
  • There is also no doubt that Depo is used disproportionally against the fertility of poor black women in the U.S.16

sad african woman

Such efforts to target poor women have been ramped up significantly by Melinda Gates’ 2012 Family Planning Summit, with the cooperation of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations and, of course, Pfizer, which stands to make billions of dollars of profit annually from the sale and distribution of the various types of Depo-Provera.



Common ground between hard-care pro-abortion and pro-life groups is almost nonexistent. However, almost all of us agree that the birth control shot Depo-Provera poses an unacceptable health risk to women, especially those who are poor. We also agree that Depo is being used to target both poor minority women in the United States and in developing nations.

It is time to speak the truth about Depo-Provera.



[1] Andy Smith. “Better Dead Than Pregnant: The Colonization of Native Women’s Reproductive Health,” in Jael Silliman and Anannya Bhattacharjee (editors). Policing the National Body: Race, Gender, & Criminalization [Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press], 2002.

[2] “Contraceptives: Case for Public Enquiry.” Economic and Political Weekly, Volume 29, Number 15 (April 9, 1994), pages 825–826.

[3] Gwen Duggan, Vice-President of Women for Women’s Health. “Depo-Provera and Women’s Health.” The Vancouver Sun, February 1993.

[4] Jane Dreaper. “The One Dollar Contraceptive Set to Make Family Planning Easier.” BBC News, November 15, 2014 at http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30026001.

[5] Karen Hawkins and Jeff Elliott. “Seeking Approval.” Albion Monitor, May 5, 1996.

[6] University of California at Berkeley University Health Services, Tang Center. “Depo-Provera for Contraception,” March 28, 2011. See also October 2010 patient information pamphlet by Physicians Total Care.

[7] Patient information brochure. “Now Available in the U.S.: Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection.” Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, December 1992. The pamphlet also says that Depo-Provera “[has a] contraceptive effect produced by inhibiting the secretion of gonadotropins (FSH, LH), which prevents follicular maturation and ovulation.… Suppresses the endometrium [the mucous membrane lining the uterus] and changes cervical mucus.”

[8] Robert A. Hatcher, et. alContraceptive Technology (18th Revised Edition) [New York City: Ardent Media, Inc.], 2004. Chapter 20, “Depo-Provera Injections, Implants, and Progestin-Only Pills (Minipills),” pages 461 to 494.

[9] Patient information brochure. “Now Available in the U.S.: Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection.” Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, December 1992.

[10] On October 30, 1992, the Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, and Minneapolis Star-Tribune, among other major newspapers, reported, “Use of Depo-Provera may be considered among the risk factors for developing osteoporosis. The rate of bone loss is greatest in the early years of use.” See also Health Canada’s Canadian Adverse Drug Reaction Monitoring Program (CADRMP), Marketed Health Products Directorate, “New Safety Information on the Use of DEPO-PROVERA (medroxyprogesterone acetate suspension for injection, 150 mg IM) associated with Bone Mineral Density Changes,” July 7, 2005.

[11] United States Food and Drug Administration. “Black Box Warning Added Concerning Long-Term Use of Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection,” November 17, 2004.

[12] On October 30, 1992, the Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, and Minneapolis Star-Tribune, among other major newspapers, reported, “A slight increased overall risk of breast cancer has been associated with use in women under 35 years of age whose first exposure to the Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection was within the previous four years. Other complications include weight changes, menstrual irregularities, headache, dizziness, nervousness, abdominal pain or discomfort, and asthenia (weakness or fatigue).”

[13] “Israel Accused of Dooming Ethiopian Baby Boom.” RT, February 24, 2010; Renee Ghert-Zand. “Shocking Decline in Ethiopian Israeli Birthrate.” The Jewish Daily Forward, December 10, 2012; Talila Nesher). “Israel Admits Ethiopian Women were Given Birth Control Shots.” Haaretz, January 27, 2013.

[14] Amy Kaler (Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota). “A Threat to the Nation and a Threat to the Men: The Banning of Depo-Provera in Zimbabwe, 1981.” Journal of Southern African Studies (Volume 24, Number 2), pages 347 to 376.

[15] Andy Smith. “Better Dead Than Pregnant: The Colonization of Native Women’s Reproductive Health,” in Jael Silliman and Anannya Bhattacharjee (editors). Policing the National Body: Race, Gender, & Criminalization [Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press], 2002.

[16] Moira Brennan. “Dorothy Roberts: What We Talk about when We Talk about Reproductive Rights.” Ms. Magazine, April-May 2001.

Did you find this useful?

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. Rochelle Russell on August 22, 2018 at 10:44 AM

    My 20 year old daughter died from Depo Provera. She died from Twomassive brain bleeds caused by inter cranial pressure, She also had a stroke. She was on depo from age 14 till 19 she got off and got pregnant soon after. Bre Suffered horribly from Depo shortly after taking her first shot but the doctors said that IT WAS NOT DEPO RELATED. We now know the truth. My only child was a victim of genocide and depopulation tactics pushed by Planned Parenthood. It is a sad state of the country when they use mothers to poison their children. I would like to join up with anyone fighting against this horrild drug. This drug is a crime against humanity. There needs to be justice for Bre! google. Toledo women claims daughter dies from depo provera. I am willng to share her medical records with you. 404 254 9744

    • Margaret Kirkby on July 4, 2019 at 1:07 AM

      Dear Rochelle,
      I am mortified to hear your personal story regarding the death of your 20 year old daughter after her use of Depo Provera. It is shattering and I sympathise with you. I am both an activist for abortion rights AND I have campaigned against the use of Depo Provera. It is an evil drug and should never have been approved for use as a method of contraception for women.

  2. Nabih Mateen on September 18, 2019 at 6:54 AM

    How can I convince fast Pregnancy after depo prover last dose taken on 2017 novmber till know I didnt conceive worst decision of my life

    • HLI Staff on October 22, 2019 at 2:02 PM

      Nabih, have you spoken to your OBGYN and made clear you do not want any contraceptives and talk about your pregnancy issues? Natural Family Planning can help you chart and become pregnant; what country are you in?

  3. Baukje Tolsma-de Vries on January 31, 2021 at 9:28 AM

    Hello, our daughter (28) committed suicide after using depro provera. Exactly 4 weeks after the injection. Nobody will believe this.
    Reaction from Holland. I do not know how I can warn other woman en seek justice for our daughter.

  4. Survivoralwayscancercantwin on June 19, 2021 at 5:33 PM

    Stage 2 IDC Hormone Positive Breast Cancer thanks to this horrible drug. 😩🤬😠😭😤

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