Abortifacient Brief: Implants

Abortifacient Brief: Implants

Birth control implants are slowly becoming more popular as a method of birth control all over the world primarily because of heavy promotion by “family planners.”

Implants have several advantages from the population control viewpoint.  They do not require daily attention, they have a high effectiveness rate because the cause of most contraceptive failures (user error) is eliminated, and they are effective for a long period of time, from three to seven years.

There are three types of birth control implants currently in use:

  1. Norplant consists of six flexible tubes containing a total of 216 milligrams of the progestin levenorgestrel, and is effective for seven years after insertion. The Chinese call their version of Norplant “Sinoplant I.”  All of the implants consist of silastic (silicone rubber), the same material used in heart valves and medical tubing.
  2. Jadelle is the successor to Norplant, and is often referred to as “Norplant-2.” It consists of two flexible tubes containing a total of 75 milligrams of levenorgestrel, and is effective for five years after insertion.  It was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 but has never been used in this country.  The Chinese also manufacture Jadelle, calling it “Sinoplant II,” which is effective for four years.
  3. Merck’s Implanon contains 68 milligrams of the progestin etonogestrel, and is effective for three years. Merck also markets Nexplanon in Europe.  Nexplanon is identical to Implanon but features radiopaque rods.  Implanon is the only implant currently available in the United States.


History of the First Birth Control Implants

Norplant was developed and tested by embryologist Sheldon Segal of the Rockefeller Foundation, and its patent was originally owned by the Population Council.  Wyeth‑Ayerst Laboratories of Philadelphia, a subsidiary of American Home Products Corporation, initially produced Norplant.  The FDA approved it for use in December 1990, and it was formally introduced to the American public amid great fanfare two months later.[1]

Just over a decade later (2002), one and a half million North American women had used Norplant.  More than 50,000 of these women brought more than 200 lawsuits, including 70 class‑action suits, against Wyeth‑Ayerst.[2]

The legal complaints alleged inadequate warnings of side effects, prolonged menstrual bleeding, headaches, significant weight gain, personality disorders, hair loss and depression.  Wyeth‑Ayerst reacted aggressively, and won three jury verdicts, more than twenty summary judgments, and the dismissal of 14,000 claims.  In 1999, it offered $1,500 cash settlements to the remaining 36,000 women who alleged that they had been injured by Norplant.  Knowing that they would most likely not win their lawsuits, most of these women accepted the settlement offer.[3]  Norplant ceased distribution in the United States in 2002, but is still used in developing nations all over the world.

Norplant’s successor Jadelle was also developed by the Population Council and is manufactured by Finland’s Schering Pharmaceuticals.  The FDA approved Jadelle in May 1996.  Jadelle is not marketed in the United States, but is being used all over the world by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other population control agencies.

implanon - birth control implants

The contraceptive implant

Implantation and Extraction Procedures

Insertion and extraction procedures for the various birth control implants are similar.  A physician begins the insertion procedure by making a 1/8‑inch incision about six inches above the woman’s elbow.  He then loads the capsules one by one into her arm in a fan‑shaped pattern using an insertion tube.[1]  He uses local anesthetic for both the implantation and extraction procedures.

In many cases, removing the silastic tubes is more difficult than implanting them because the tubes become coated with fibrous tissue and gradually anchor into the surrounding tissue (i.e., they grow into the arm).  This is a result of trauma caused by the birth control implants being pushed into the tissue and a low‑level inflammatory reaction to the tube’s foreign substance. In some cases, the tubes slowly scatter and migrate to other areas of the body, which is why Implanon was made to be more visible to X-rays.


How Birth Control Implants Work

The birth control implants are members of the single‑synthetic hormone class of abortifacients which includes the “mini‑pill” and the Progestasert intrauterine device (IUD).[5]

Once implanted, Norplant and Jadelle slowly release levonorgestrel (a low‑dosage progestin used in many birth control pills), which is an abortifacient that prevents implantation of the developing human being in the uterus.  Implanon and Nexplanon release etonogestrel, another low-dosage progestin.

All of these birth control implants have a three‑fold mode of action:

  1. Inhibiting ovulation
  2. Thickening the cervical mucus
  3. Altering the the lining of the uterus so that its degree of receptivity to the blastocyst (early developing human being) is significantly decreased.
human blastocyst

A human blastocyst

A test of 41 women using Norplant for one year showed that 24 women experienced a suppressed uterine lining, 12 had an irregular uterine lining, and only five had normal (unchanged) uterine linings.[5]  Thus, Norplant may have had an abortifacient effect in up to 88% of the women tested. This means that a woman using a birth control implant will occasionally ovulate and conceive — and experience an early “silent” abortion.

Dr. John Hildebrand, an expert in human reproduction, describes how the synthetic hormones in Norplant work:

[They] louse up the lining of the uterus.  It produces exhaustion of the endometrium, depriving the lining of the uterus of the hormonal support that it needs.  [The drug] disturbs all factors in the blood system.  The drug is long‑acting because the body can’t digest these new analogs.  The body sees this as an abnormal thing and tries to get rid of it.  When it can’t, it sets up violent reactions inside us.  In the sense that we are all different ― that our enzymes are as individual as our fingerprints ― nobody can be certain of the effects this drug will have.[1]

This is true of all birth control implants, not just Norplant.


Side Effects of Birth Control Implants

Although they naturally vary widely from woman to woman, the range of typical Norplant side effects include:

  • changes in the uterine lining
  • odd menstrual bleeding patterns
  • spotting between menstrual periods
  • missed or prolonged menstrual periods
  • dizziness
  • sudden weight gain or loss
  • headaches
  • nervousness
  • nausea
  • abnormal body hair growth
  • ironically—a decreased sexual appetite.

Since Jadelle releases exactly the same chemicals, we can expect its users to suffer the same side effects, but perhaps less frequently due to the lower dosage. The patient information pamphlets for these birth control implants also show that much more serious side effects include:

  • thrombosis (formation of blood clots which can lead to heart attacks and strokes)
  • liver dysfunction
  • ectopic pregnancies
  • high blood pressure
  • allergic or immune reactions.[4]
blood clotting visual

Hormonal contraceptives can cause fatal blood clotting.

One Texas survey showed that 8% of Norplant users experienced pseudo‑tumor cerebri, a condition where increased fluid pressure in the brain crushes the optic nerve and causes partial or complete permanent blindness.[6]

A study conducted in Singapore concluded that after one year of use, women “may have an increased predisposition to thrombosis as evidenced by significant increase in platelet count and aggregability.”  The results also show that Norplant acceptors may have an enhanced potential for hypercoagulation.  Another study showed that there was a significant increase (58%) in bilirubin in women who used Norplant for a year, indicating that the abortifacient may cause serious liver dysfunction.[7]

The FDA has warned that Norplant “should not be used by women who have acute liver disease, unexplained vaginal bleeding, breast cancer, or blood clots in the legs, lungs, or eyes.”

breast cancer ribbon in hands

Groups that were already deeply involved in abortion, contraception, and population control predictably downplayed the side effects of the drug in their literature when concerns began to arise.  The April 1990 issue of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) newsletter Medical Bulletin stated that Norplant’s most serious side effects were weight gain and a “greater risk that the pregnancy will be ectopic than if the user were not using Norplant.”  The article failed to mention impacts such as allergic/immune reactions, ‘migration’ of the six polymer capsules, or most of the other side effects listed above.

In summary, the birth control implants are all long-lasting and take reproductive control out of the hands of the user and put it into the hands of the doctors and health workers who are employed by health departments in developing nations.  Thus it is inevitable that abuses occur on a wide scale.


Birth Control Implants and Population Control

When a government seeks to control the fertility of its people, it increasingly uses so-called long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs.

These include intrauterine devices, injectables such as Depo-Provera, and implants like Norplant and Jadelle.  Of course, in addition to the permanent “solution” to fertility ― sterilization ― the Gates Foundation and like-minded billion-dollar organizations are developing and testing new technologies such as the “microchip” implant, which suppresses fertility for up to 14 years.

The primary problem of LARCs from a human rights standpoint is that they all are prone to abuse by government agencies.  Women themselves can control the daily use of birth control pills and such actual contraceptives as condoms, but these are prone to user error and are difficult for the government to track.  This degree of error is unacceptable to the Western elites.

The class of LARC that has been most widely abused is birth control implants, particularly Norplant.

At the turn of the 19th century, the sun never set on the British Empire.  If an empire could be defined as control of the wombs of poor women in developing countries, there is a new empire upon which the sun never sets ― the empire painstakingly constructed and defended by Western contraceptive imperialists.

african girls

Since the mid‑1970s, the United States has been deeply committed to both domestic and foreign population control programs.  Since 1995 alone, more than fifty billion of our tax dollars have been used to implement many questionable and coercive programs, including most notably the ongoing Chinese forced‑abortion atrocity.[8]

However, before these programs can be firmly established, the required “tools” must be thoroughly tested on those who have no voice.


Norplant Abuse in Developing Nations

Norplant has the longest history among implantable birth control methods and has been abused the most, both in foreign nations and in the United States.  It was the final product of 24 years of Population Council research.

In 1990, the USA became the 17th country to accept it for distribution.  The abortifacient Norplant had been tested continuously since 1972 on women in several developing countries, including Haiti, Indonesia, Brazil and Bangladesh, by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which provided most of the $20 million in research costs.[9]

The abuses were most widespread in Bangladesh.  At a 1990 meeting of the American Public Health Association, Dr. Shayam Thapa claimed that many doctors were eager to implant the drug, but only one‑fourth of Bangladeshi women who wanted the capsules removed could find a doctor willing or trained to do so.[9]

In 1990, the Hai News, a Korean newspaper, reported that UBINIG, a Bangladeshi health advocacy group, had uncovered “gross violations of medical ethics” in the testing and distribution of Norplant under the auspices of the USAID and the single-purpose population group Family Health International:

  • Medical personnel did not inform Bangladeshi women that the drug was experimental and that it had many serious side effects.
  • They bribed many women to use the drug and instructed them 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, the medics withheld proper care from them, and told them that they would have to refund the cost of the Norplant if it was removed ― an impossibility since this sum was more than a year’s wage.
  • Many women suffered severe eye problems and even blindness, yet the summary reports on the effectiveness of Norplant did not mention these side effects.[10]

african womenThis is an example of how the major pharmaceutical corporations typically perform their initial experimentation of potentially dangerous drugs on poor foreign women so that any errors or serious health problems can more easily be covered up.  One advantage to this tactic is that these women have no recourse when their health is destroyed or damaged by this kind of testing, because Big Pharma brings lots of American dollars to their homelands and any agitation against the programs can easily be suppressed by local governments.

When the birth control product is judged safe for American women to use, it is marketed in the United States.  If it is used by American women but later turns out to have negative long-term health impacts despite the initial program of foreign testing, the pharmaceutical companies flood developing countries with their abortifacient devices and drugs in the name of “foreign aid” and “women’s reproductive health.”  They have taken this course of action with several IUDs, Norplant, the injectable abortifacient Depo‑Provera, and many brands of high‑dose birth control pills that have been discontinued in the United States.

In the opinion of the ‘new abortionists,’ it is just too bad if some of their ‘guinea pigs’ are killed or wounded.  As one gynecologist who was testing Norplant in Bangladesh heartlessly said:

95% of our clients belong to the very poor class.  They are responsible for giving birth four or five times.  Since they cannot remember to take birth control pills every day, long‑acting contraceptives are much better for them….In order to have a good thing there is always a price to pay.  If two or three women die ― what’s the problem?  The population will be reduced.[11]


Norplant Abuse in the United States

Immediately after Norplant was introduced to the American public, several judges ordered poor black women onto the drug because they had been convicted of abusing previous children.  In one such case, Tulare County (California) Superior Court Judge Howard R. Broadman gave Darlene Johnson a very simple but coercive choice: be chemically sterilized with Norplant or go to jail for two to four years.[12]

It did not take state legislatures long to perceive the dramatic possibilities of using the drug.  Kansas H.B. 2089 identified Norplant by name in an act that would provide help to female welfare recipients only if they agreed to be implanted.[13]  Within two years of FDA’s approval of Norplant, thirteen state legislatures considered bills forcing or paying women on welfare to use it. Additionally, the cities of Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles provided Norplant to its middle school and high school girls without parental consent ― but only to schools that served primarily black students.[14]

parental consent, parental rights

With so many influential people pushing abortion and birth control on girls and women of color, it is not unfair to ask what their agenda really is.  In 1990, deputy editorial page editor Donald Kimelman of the Philadelphia Enquirer stated in an article chillingly entitled “Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?”:

As we read these two stories [about Norplant and black poverty], we asked ourselves:  Dare we mention them in the same breath?  To do so might be considered deplorably insensitive, perhaps raising the specter of eugenics.  But it would be worse to avoid drawing the logical conclusion that foolproof contraception could be invaluable in breaking the cycle of inner city poverty ― one of America’s greatest challenges.[15]

Kimelman went on to suggest that welfare mothers could be implanted with Norplant for free and perhaps receive increased welfare benefits as a reward.  Little did he know that this was one of the first elements of the coercive Chinese population program that now features mandatory sterilization and forced abortions even in the ninth month of pregnancy.

Vanessa Williams, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, called Kimelman’s article “a tacit endorsement of slow genocide.”[16]  And Inquirer columnist Steve Lopez sarcastically suggested in a subsequent article that contraception would not “reduce the underclass” quite as fast as “just shooting them.”

The Philadelphia Enquirer publicly apologized for Kimelman’s article after a wave of complaints.  But the damage had been done; the eugenicist thinking of the pro‑abortionists and some very influential people had been exposed once again.



[1] Paul Likoudis.  “Five‑Year Birth Control Device Approved By FDA.”  The Wanderer, December 20, 1990, pages 3 and 12.

[2] Associated Press.  “Publicity Blamed for Drop in Norplant Use.”  San Francisco Chronicle, August 12, 1995, page A5.

[3] Erica Johnson.  “Medical Device Lawsuits.”  CBC News, April 1, 2003; Pamela Manson.  “Federal Judge Dismisses Norplant Damage Claims.”  Texas Lawyer, August 27, 2002.

[4] 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.

[5] Dale N. Robertson.  “Implantable Levenorgestrel Rod Systems:  In Vivo Release Rates and Clinical Effects.”  Also see Horacio B. Croxatto, et al.  “Histopathology of the Endometrium During Continuous Use of Levenorgestrel.”  Both included in Gerald I. Zatuchini (editor).  Long Acting Contraceptive Delivery Systems [New York City:  Harper & Row], 1984, pages 133 to 144 and 290 to 295, respectively.

[6] British Broadcasting Corporation.  Horizon Television Show entitled “The Human Laboratory,” broadcast of November 7, 1995.

[7] O.A.C. Viegas, et al.  “The Effects of NORPLANT on Clinical Chemistry in Singaporean Acceptors after 1 Year of Use:  Haemostatic Changes.”  Contraception, September 1988, Volume 38, Number 3.  Pages 313 to 323.

[8] For calculations and references, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org and ask for Excel spreadsheet F-18-05.XLS, “Population Control Donations by “First World” Nations, 1996-2013.”

[9] Elizabeth Sobo.  “Norplant:  Lab‑Tested on Third World Women.”  Our Sunday Visitor, February 3, 1991, pages 10 and 11.

[10] British Broadcasting Corporation.  Horizon Television Show entitled “The Human Laboratory,” broadcast of November 7, 1995; Elizabeth Sobo.  “Norplant:  Lab‑Tested on Third World Women.”  Our Sunday Visitor, February 3, 1991, pages 10 and 11; for a detailed description of the program, see Gracie S. Hsu.  “Population Imperialism:  The Growing Backlash against U.S. Policy.  Bulletin of the Ovulation Method [Research and Reference Centre of Australia], March 1998 [Volume 25; Number 1].

[11] Bangladeshi gynecologist Josas Koninoor, M.D., quoted in “Norplant, The Five Year Needle.”  Issues in Reproductive Engineering [Volume 3, Number 3], pages 221 to 228.

[12] Joe Bigham.  “Birth Control Order Stands until Appeal.”  The Oregonian [Portland, Oregon], January 11, 1991, page A16.

[13] “Chemical Warfare.”  American Life League’s Communique, March 1, 1991.

[14]  Dorothy Roberts.  Chapter 3, “From Norplant to the Contraceptive Vaccine:  The New Frontier of Population Control.”  In Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty [New York City:  Pantheon], 1997.

[15] Don Kimelman.  “Poverty and Norplant:  Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?”  Philadelphia Enquirer, December 12, 1990.

[16] Clarence Page.  “Hope Best Way to Fight Poverty.”  The Oregonian, December 31, 1990, page C5.


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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.

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