Contraception or abortifacient?


A common assumption is that the use of contraception will lead to fewer abortions, not more. There are several reasons why this assumption is false. Here, we examine one such problem; how the twisting of language relating to the first week of human life has paved the way for chemicals, implants, and devices to be accepted as only contraceptive, and not abortifacient, thereby adding to the number of pre-born children aborted every single year.

A paper published by the Guttmacher Institute states that “All hormonal contraceptives have an abortifacient potential.”1 The Guttmacher Institute is an organisation whose purpose is to further so-called “sexual and reproductive rights,” terminology describing a [not so] hidden agenda to ensure unfettered access to contraception and abortion.

Strictly speaking, contraceptives are chemicals, implants, or devices that act in a way preventing human life from the beginning [contra = against / ception = conception]. Whereas an abortifacient is a drug or device which causes an abortion.  Abortions procured in this way may also be known as “chemical abortions.”


The terminology is straightforward, however, it is precisely the definitions that hide the potential of these so-called “contraceptives” to actually cause “silent” abortions at the very beginning of human life.

When does human life begin?

The scientific community is united in their view that life begins at fertilization; when a sperm unites with an oocyte or ovum, and a new organism, distinctly different, is created.  We call this newly created organism a zygote (or one-cell embryo). 

From the moment of conception (fertilization); the being is highly organized, has the ability to acquire materials and energy, has the ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and reproduce cells by dividing.  Only a living entity can do these things.  Even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, a distinct, unique life has begun his or her existence inside her.

Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the father of modern genetics, so eloquently testified:

Each of us has a very precise starting moment which is the time at which the whole necessary and sufficient genetic information is gathered inside one cell, the fertilized egg, and this is the moment of fertilization.  There is not the slightest doubt about that and we know that this information is written on a kind of ribbon we call the DNA.

It is a simple and undisputed fact that life starts at conception (fertilization).

Redefining the meaning of conception

Unfortunately, the issue became complicated in the early 1960’s when officials from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), teamed up with the United States Food and Drug Administration and redefined the meaning of the word “conception.”  

Conception would no longer be the union of sperm and ovum but would be the time, approximately one week later when the human embryo implants in the lining of the mother’s womb.

Consequently, in 1965, a new definition was published in the first issue of ACOG’s Terminology Bulletin, which stated that “conception is the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”2

Subsequently, pregnancy today is defined as being from the moment of implantation in the mother’s uterus, approximately one week after fertilization. Technically, it is argued, that contraceptives are not terminating a pregnancy until the embryo is implanted in the mother’s uterus. This semantic gymnastics allows users and proponents to gloss over the evidence that the embryo is a living being from the moment of fertilization.

It is this window of time between fertilization and implantation where contraceptives no longer solely prevent life from being conceived in the first place and venture into the territory of abortifacients.

How do abortifacients work?

According to the “Physician’s Desk Reference” the birth control pill works in three ways:

  • prevents ovulation,
  • inhibits fertilization by thickening the cervical mucus and making it harder for sperm to travel,
  • inhibits implantation by making the endometrium or lining of the womb hostile to implantation.

These modes of action are true for a number of other hormonal implants, injectables, and devices.

The first two modes of action are indeed contraceptive.  They prevent new life from being conceived.  However, the third action is where the Pill (and other hormonal ‘contraceptives’ like it) have abortifacient potential.

A hostile endometrium means a developing baby (embryo) cannot attach to the uterine lining and dies, which is a very early “chemical abortion”.  Any contraceptive that has as a mode of action, the potential to alter the lining of the endometrium (uterus), is an abortifacient.

This is startling considering a large proportion of women use the Pill, implants, IUD’s, and other methods to avoid pregnancy.

The Pill is not the only abortifacient

There are several other abortifacients currently marketed as contraceptives and also have an abortifacient action – at least some of the time.  The abortifacients include:

  • Depo Provera,
  • Intrauterine devices (IUD’s), including hormonal devices such as Mirena,
  • the morning-after pill, and
  • implants such as Jadelle and Implanon.

All are marketed as “contraceptive,” however, each has the potential to abort a nascent human life prior to implantation. 

Read our Fact Sheet about Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives

Although conception (fertilization) is not likely to occur every cycle, it is reasonable to expect that over the course of a year a woman may unknowingly conceive once or twice, then “silently” abort because her womb is hostile to receiving an embryo for implantation. 

In The Facts of Life, Dr. Brian Clowes, explains that researchers have estimated that “the birth prevention pill directly causes between 1.53 and 4.15 million chemical abortions per year in the United States.”3  That figure is for the United States alone and does not include other abortifacients as listed above.

Clearly, the use of contraception does not alleviate the number of abortions that occur every year, but rather adds to the grave loss of life through “silent” abortions. 



1. Harlap, Susan; Kost, Kathryn; Darroch Forrest, Jacqueline. Preventing Pregnancy, Protecting Health: A New Look at Contraceptive Choices in the United States. (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1991), 17–28.
2.  American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “Terms Used in Reference to the Fetus,” Terminology Bulletin. (Chicago, September 1965).
3.  Clowes, Brian.  The Facts of Life.  (Human Life International, 1997), 74.

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