Birth control pills act in three basic ways: (This information can be obtained from any standard reference work, such as the Physician's Desk Reference.)
The newer low-dose pills are less effective at preventing ovulation and therefore rely more on the remaining two methods. As an egg is microscopic, it can be difficult to tell in any given case whether an egg really has been released. But Dutch gynecologist Dr Nine Van der Vange made an extensive study of women using these pills. She found proof that an egg had been released in 4% of the cases, and found follicle growth typical of what one finds in early pregnancy in at least 52% of cases.
The workings of the mini-pill are not fully understood, but it appears to allow ovulation at least 40% of the time, according to Emory University's Contraceptive Technology.
So how often do birth control pills really cause abortions rather than prevent conception? Medical researchers simply don't know. Suppose it is as little as 1% of the time. As a woman ovulates about once a month, then in a year of regular sex using the pill for "protection" there would be just under 12 x 1% = 12% chance that she would have aborted a child this way.*. In five years the probability is a little under 5 x 12 x 1% = 60% -- the actual probability is 55% -- of at least one abortion. That small probability adds up over many months of use.
Some people have moral objections to contraception in principle. (Right to Life takes on position on contraception in principle.) But that is not the issue here. Even those who see no moral distinction between preventing pregnancy through contraception and preventing pregnancy through abstinence, must still object to any birth control method that relies, even a small percentage of the time, on destroying a life that has already begun.
I recently heard the interesting rebuttal that, as birth control pills usually act by contraception, that any abortions that result should be accepted as an unfortunate accident. This is a little like saying that it's alright to fire a gun randomly in the dark, as you usually won't hit anybody, and in the few cases when you do, it should be accepted as an unfortunate accident.
Created 9 Aug 95. Updated 12 Feb 96.
Copyright ©1995,1996 by Ohio Right to Life.