The Pill is the popular term for a variety of oral contraceptives (OC’s) or birth control pills (BCP’s). They are sometimes called combination pills because they contain both estrogen and progestin. Every year, the pill is used by 14 million American women and around 60 million women worldwide.
The Pill is sometimes prescribed for reasons other than birth control, but most often women take the pill to avoid contraception. The question debated among Christians is whether the pill sometimes act as an abortifacient. That is, does the pill have the potential to terminate the life of a zygote (the single cell the results from a fertilized egg)? My modest proposal is that you look into the issue for yourself.
Respected Christian groups like Focus on the Family’s Physicians Research Counsel and the Christian Medical and Dental Association have issued non-statement statements, arguing that as of yet no consensus exists on the issue. Both of the aforementioned groups recognize differing opinions among Christians, and in light of what they consider inconclusive evidence one way or the other, urge more research and study.
Others have found the evidence more conclusive. Randy Alcorn has published a 197 page book explaining why he believes birth control pills do sometimes cause abortions. For years, Alcorn’s wife used the pill and as a pastor, Alcorn recommended it to newlyweds. So changing his mind was not easy, but over time he did.
According to Alcorn and the physicians he cites, the pill works mainly by prohibiting ovulation, but it also works by thinning the line of the uterine wall (endometrium), making the implantation of a fertilized egg less likely. The Physician’s Desk Reference states with reference to the contraceptive pill, Ortho-Cept: “Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus, which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus, and changes in the endometrium which reduce the likelihood of implantation.” The Pill works in three ways, Alcorn argues: preventing ovulation, preventing sperm penetration, and preventing zygote implantation.
Granted, in the vast majority of cases, an egg will not be fertilized. But sometimes it will. And using the pill makes successful implantation of the new life less likely. Alcorn documents journal articles, MRI results, ultra sound technology, and reproductive endorcrinologists who confirm that (1) endometrial thickness is related to functional receptivity and (2) the Pill thins the endometrium.
A number of doctors support Alcorn’s thesis, while others, like those who issued a pro-life Ob/Gyn’s statement, have called the “hostile endometrium” notion a myth. A long list of links and statements, both for and against Alcorn’s position, can be found here.
For my wife and me, even the possibility of terminating a fertilized egg made us skittish about the Pill. We’ve never used it, though many of our Christian friends have. I encourage every Christian couple using or contemplating the Pill to research the issue for themselves. Consult a physician and ask about the possible abortifacient effects of oral contraceptives. The issue is obviously more complex than a brief summary from a non-medically trained pastor.
Many Christians have little awareness of any controversy surrounding the Pill. This article is not meant to shame those who have used or are using the Pill. But at the very least, we owe it to ourselves, our children, and the Lord to prayerfully consider the rights and wrongs of the pills we take and prescribe.