The following article is not meant to endorse or disparage any political position or candidate. Rather, it is meant to help us examine ourselves and motives in the light of a recent events.
During a recent appearance on Fox News’ “Huckabee,” presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stated that he was in favor of the Personhood Amendment, which declares that human life begins at conception. Shortly after this, Romney was at a town hall meeting in Iowa where a woman stood up and voiced her concern that the Personhood Amendment would outlaw hormonal contraception, which is used by millions of women. Without missing a beat, Romney responded that he was not against hormonal contraception. He was against anything that effected life after conception, “contraception prevents conception. I am not against that.” The concerned citizen continued and urged Romney to have staff look into this statement because it is known that hormonal contraception prevents implantation, not always conception. He smiled, said thank you and changed the subject.
Soon after, MSNBC jumped all over Romney for being ignorant to how a woman’s body works. Rachel Maddow put together a “man cave” moment on her show, explaining how babies are made. While the segment was patronizing to Mr. Romney, it was incredibly simple and accurate in its explanation. Ms. Maddow detailed how the woman’s body functions, and the three functions of the pill, including the fact that if sperm is able to meet an egg, it is fertilized but not able to implant. She brushes over this statement because for her, it doesn’t make any difference to her philosophy. If a woman can choose what is expedient for her at any point during a pregnancy, it doesn’t matter when life begins.
What is revealed by this recent interchange is that women do understand how the pill works. The thinning of the endometrium and preventing of implantation is not news to these women. It is so well known to them that they jump all over Romney because they perceive it is common knowledge. Like Maddow, this information is not earth shattering for those that have no trouble with the intentional termination of a pregnancy.
But what about those who agree with the statement: “Life Begins at Conception.”
What of those who believe this statement so strongly that they attend rallies, stand in front of abortion clinics, pray for the end of abortion, and proclaim boldly, “All Life is Sacred!” Why do so many ignore this commonly known function of the pill?
Even the vocally conservative organization, Focus on the Family, has issued an official statement on contraception, saying:
We would appose any method of birth control that acts after fertilization and terminates a conceived human life by preventing its implantation in the womb. For example, an intrauterine device, or IUD, as it is commonly called, is thought to interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg, and, therefore, may terminate human life in its very early stages.
Based on a review of the available literature, [we have] concluded that the birth control pills which contain only the hormone progesterone do not reliably prevent ovulation … With these methods, the pregnancies which do occur have a greater chance of being ectopic … this may be the evidence that these contraceptives act, in some cases to disrupt normal implantation of an early pregnancy and not merely to prevent conception.a [emphasis mine]
The statement later acknowledges that the most popular forms of hormonal contraception are combined pills, and that they “seem to work primarily through suppression of ovulation.” While the statement affirms the function of the thickening of the cervical mucus, when it comes to preventing implantation, they state,
… there is controversy as to whether they also bring about changes…that could increase the likelihood of losing a fertilized egg if ovulation and conception should occur. [emphasis mine]
What strikes me about this whole document is the inconsistent use of “may,” “might,” “could,” and “seem to,” statements. I agree that in this kind of discussion it is wise to use qualifying statements because each pill contains different dosages, different synthetic hormones, etc. However, it is the incongruous stance taken towards the uncertainty that troubles me. When it comes to the IUD and progesterone only pill, “thought to interfere” is grounds enough for disapproval. But when speaking of the combination pills, “seems to work” is enough for acceptance and approval.
After two years, the Physicians Research Council, full of pro-life doctors, was unable to come to a consensus regarding combination pills. The majority of this council concluded that the pill has no abortifacient effect, while a minority feels that the possibility, “however remote, …warrant[s] informing women about it.”
How is it that a council of pro-life physicians can deliberate for two years without a consensus, yet a woman in Iowa and Rachel Maddow know what every pill packet information pamphlet declares with certainty, that implantation is prevented by these medications? What does it say when we differentiate by frequency of occurrence? Whether intentionally or not, the logical conclusion of this differentiation is that not all life is sacred after all, only that life which is threatened by a medications primary function.
Why are we blind to what others see so plainly? Are we hiding behind cautious and ambiguous research because we are not sure we can handle the change it would require to our sex lives and families? Are we intimidated by what this conviction would mean in our lives, in our vote, to our reputation, all in the name of valuing a clump of cells as human life?
The truth is confronting us. We cannot ignore it any longer. We cannot claim ignorance. We must think through the implications of our moral beliefs, and stand firm in our convictions. We must respect life…period.
a. This is not the best reason to assume implantation is prevented. One must look at the interference of the mechanisms of implantation for a healthy pregnancy, not the idea that an unhealthy pregnancy can happen. However, if they are using this as the reason to disapprove, they should look at the ectopic pregnancy risks in all hormonal contraceptives. The risk is not limited to the IUD and progesterone-only pills.
- “Romney on Contraception.” YouTube. Web. Nov. 7, 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1WDuYPpYQ4>.
- Cherette, Matt. “Rachel Maddow Explains Birth Control to Mitt Romney.” Gawker. Oct. 21, 2011. Web. Nov. 7, 2011. <http://gawker.com/5852003/rachel-maddow-explains-birth-control-to-mitt-romney>
- Physicians Resource Council. “Position Statement – Pills and Other Hormonal Contraception.” Focus On The Family. July 13, 2010. Web. Nov. 7, 2011. <www.family.org/sharedassets/correspondence/pdfs/miscellaneous/Position_Statement-Birth_Control_Pills_and_Other_Hormonal_Contraception.pdf>.
- Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “ORTHO TRI-CYCLEN® Lo Tablets.” ThePill.com Pg. 1, First Paragraph under “Clinical Pharmacology.” June 2010. Web. 7 Nov. 2011. <www.thepill.com/thepill/shared/pi/Tri-Cyclen_Lo_PI.pdf>.
- Larimore and Stanford. “Postfertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and Their Relationship to Informed Consent.” Family Medicine 9 (2000): 126-33. Archives of Family Medicine. American Medical Association, Feb. 2000. Web. Nov. 7, 2011. <http://archfami.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/9/2/126>.