Is emergency contraception equivalent to abortion? In the following essay, I will attempt
to answer this very question. First off, though, lets get a little background on what emergency
contraception is and what it does. Emergency contraception has become popularly known as the
morning after pill. This is a poor term because there are actually two different forms of
emergency contraception. The first, which is commonly referred to as the morning after pill is
actually a series of two separate doses of two oral contraceptives. This type of contraceptive is
seventy-five percent effective in preventing pregnancy. The pills work by preventing a fertilized
egg from entering the uterus and wont work if a woman is already pregnant. If the ovum has not
been recently released from the ovary, then the pill will usually prevent it from being released.
Aside from vomiting and nausea, there are no serious side effects.1
They have been approved as a post-coital (after sexual intercourse) method of
contraception in over twenty countriesincluding England, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and
the United States. They are not approved for use in Canada, but have been widely used there for
many years. In February of 1997, it was declared safe and effective by the US Food and Drug
Administration. The pills are sold specially packaged for emergency use in some countries.2
Many people believe that women have only a small interval of time to take the medication.
Some people have concluded that a woman has to wait for many hours before taking the
pillperhaps until the next morning. Others believe that the treatment is no longer effective if a
woman waits past the next morning. Neither is true. The medication can be taken immediately
after unprotected intercourse or anytime up to seventy-two hours later. However, its efficiency
seems to be reduced as time passes, so it is important that it be taken quickly.3
The second form of emergency contraception is a Copper T Intra-Uterine Device (IUD).
The insertion of the IUD within five days of unprotected intercourse is sometimes used. The IUD
changes the environment of the uterus in ways that are not entirely clear; the result is that the
fertilized ovum will not be able to attach itself to the endometrium, the lining of the uterus.
There is a general agreement among pro-choice groups and medical professionals that
emergency contraceptives do not induce abortions. Pro-life groups have a unique definition of the
terms pregnancy and abortion and maintain that these pills sometimes do induce abortions.4
We will look at both sides.
We will begin with the pro-choice groups and medical professionals. Pregnancy is defined
by these two groups as the implantation of the fertilized ovum (egg) to the wall of the uterus.5
These two groups maintain that life does not officially begin until the egg is implanted onto the
uterine wall, about 12 days after conception (synonym for fertilization); therefore, the pills do not
cause an abortion. Abortion is defined as induced termination of pregnancy before the fetus is
capable of independent survival.6 Since the termination of a pregnancy is not taking place and
the prevention of a pregnancy is, an abortion is not being performed by the pills. In addition,
since the pills have no effect on an ovum already implanted on the uterine wall, an abortion cannot
take place in this instance either.
On the other hand, pro-life groups believe that pregnancy begins at the moment the egg is
fertilized by a sperm.7 Based on their definition, they believe that if the pills cause the ovum to
not implant itself to the uterine wall, then the pregnancy has been terminated thus an abortion has
taken place. They also believe that if the pills are taken and the egg has not yet been fertilized by
a sperm, that the pills were merely a contraceptive and were not abortifacients, something to
induce an abortion to take place. On February 25, 1997, the Christian Medical and Dental
Society of Bristol, TN issued a press release. Using the pro-life definition of pregnancy, they
Contrary to the belief of some, the so called
morning-after pill will dramatically increasenot decreasethe
tragic number of abortions in this country. The public is being
misled into believing that this concoction prevents a pregnancy
when actually in most cases it will abort a pregnancy. . .Approving
and promoting these pills is not only medically irresponsible, it is
also sending the wrong message to the American Public. Instead of
promoting this as an alternative for family planning, we should be
emphasizing sexual responsibility. 8
Finally, after viewing both sides objectively, I will have to agree with the pro-life groups.
I agree that life begins at the very moment of conception. It is at that point when the zygote
forms and cell division begins to take place. Although the egg has not yet implanted itself to the
uterine wall, the cell is still alive and fully functional. It has its own DNA code and its own blood
type and if anything prevents this beings ability to continue to develop, it is preventing the right
to life and is therefore inducing an abortion. Furthermore, the only way that emergency
contraception would not be considered an abortifacient is if the egg had not been fertilized by a
sperm, or the eggs release from the ovary was prevented.
In my opinion, these types of contraceptives are just one more excuse for our
irresponsibility. We should be emphasizing more on sexual responsibility instead of promoting an
alternative for family planning, just like the Christian Medical and Dental Society stated in their
press release. I believe that if you are going to play, then you will have to pay. I dont believe
that the pill or IUD should be used in cases of rape or incest. It is not the developing babys fault
that his father was a sex-crazed maniac; therefore, his life should not be taken. There are other
alternatives to aborting the pregnancy, such as adoption, that can be considered in these cases.
Many families cannot have children and would love to have one become available to them through