Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jagged Little Pill

A lot of people use it. This site tells us that these methods are by far the most common used. But do people really know how chemical birth control works? Birth control pills, patches, IUDs, and all other chemical birth control methods work in three main ways to prevent pregnancy.

  1. They make it unlikely that ovulation will occur
  2. If ovulation occurs, they also make it unlikely that sperm and egg will meet
  3. If sperm and egg meet, they also make it unlikely that the egg will implant in the uterus
That third item is a subject of much controversy, or would be if it weren't kept so hush-hush due to politicking, because it means that the pill interferes with a pregnancy and leads to the death of a developing fetus. When a sperm and an egg meet, life begins. A unique human being is created with unique DNA. No one who has ever existed before or will ever exist again has precisely the same genetic makeup - scientists have shown that even the DNA of identical twins differs slightly. There may be dispute over whether that particular human life has rights or value in those first moments (and this particular blog post makes no pretense about trying to address that particular question at this point in time), but there is little dispute that conception marks the beginning of human life.

However... an actual pregnancy may not begin for another 7-8 days as the egg travels through the fallopian tube to the womb. If the lining of the uterine wall, called the endometrium, is affected by use of The Pill, then the fertilized egg will not be able to attach and a pregnancy will not occur. Thus, the pill is not really a "contraceptive" in all its functions. For those who believe in the sanctity of human life, the fact that the pill can interfere with a pregnancy - that part of its function is as an abortifacient - should be unconscionable.

The pill is between 92 and 99.7% effective if used correctly. What we don't know, and the pharmaceutical companies will not tell us, is how frequently the first two methods of preventing pregnancy fail, and the third one succeeds. That third option terminates a life, and knowing how frequently that happens is information that should not be kept from women.

Though we don't know the exact effectiveness numbers, we can work with the math a little bit. Lets say for the sake of simplicity that the three functions that chemical birth control uses to prevent pregnancy are each effective 57% of the time. Thus, each function will fail 43% of the time:

43% * 43% * 43% = 8% of the time pregnancy will occur

So, we can see one possible set of values showing that previously mentioned 92% effectiveness number. Now, lets look specifically at how often that third method of preventing a pregnancy will happen.

43% * 43% = 18% of the time the first two functions will fail and the 3rd will have a chance to prevent pregnancy

18% - 8% = 10% of the time a fertilized egg will be destroyed with chemical birth control if these are the actual numbers

And this will all happen silently. Without the woman's knowledge. Now granted we don't really know for sure what these precise effectiveness numbers are for each of the individual functions that make up the whole, but the concept behind the equation holds. To achieve its overall effectiveness rating, the pill may be really good at blocking ovulation and fertilization, or it may be really bad at those two and really good at altering the lining of the uterus. We just don't know what goes into that 92-99.7% rating because no one will talk about those details.

There are other resources out there that explain this situation in clear, concise language. Here are a couple of quick Google results on the topic: Link one, and Link two. Regardless, you have to ask yourself and your partner if this happening - even once - is acceptable to you. If you look through the second link, you'll find this remarkable tidbit of information:
Q. So how do you prove that the pill acts as an abortifacient?

A. The answer to this question can be found by comparing the rate of break-through ovulation and the detected pregnancy rate. The ovulation rate has been reported to be about 27 ovulations in 100 women using the pill for one year. But the detected pregnancy rate is much lower at around 4 pregnancies per 100 women using the pill for one year.

As you can see, there is a big difference between the number of women who ovulate (27) and the number of detected pregnancies (4). What has happened within the woman’s body to reduce the high ovulation rate to such a low number of detected pregnancies? I suggest that one answer to this important question is that pregnancies have begun, because ovulation and fertilization have occurred, but some of these pregnancies are terminated because implantation cannot take place. The pill has damaged the lining of the womb, stopping implantation.

If these numbers are accurate, then depending on how effective the pill was at blocking fertilization after the egg was released, the pill could be acting at an abortifacient as high as 23% of the time.

There's a good chance that you're reading this and have never heard this truth about chemical birth control before. People are more likely to know that you're at risk for blood clots than that you're at risk for conceiving without getting pregnant. I won't go into all the specifics, but you don't have to dig very deep on your own to uncover the truth. It's no farther than page 2 in one of the product guides. But even with it right there in the open, no one seems to talk about it.

If you are pro-life and are on the pill, you cannot bury your head in the sand and pretend that this isn't a very real challenge to your beliefs. There are alternatives to the pill that are just as effective, though they may lack the convenience. Barrier methods and NFP are two options that do not affect a developing baby. If you are pro-life and don't use chemical birth control for this very reason, then maybe it's worth considering speaking up and sharing with other close couples in an appropriate way. Knowledge is power. And, if you are pro-choice or believe that life at these early stages is without rights or value, I challenge you to at least consider that all women should have the right to make a fully informed decision about their method of birth control. And that means that all the information needs to be available and actively communicated, and that doctors and drug manufacturers need to be truthful and forthcoming about birth control methods that employ an abortifacient.