The Contraception Cover Up





The level of controversy among pro-life physicians and ethicists about whether or not hormonal contraceptives may have an abortifacient effect could give the mistaken impression that this information is well known among most Christians who hold to a sanctity of life view.  This is far from the case.


The controversy did not become apparent to this writer until, in 1997, a student brought him a pamphlet put out by the American Life League which made the startling claim that most of the contraceptive devices1 on the market, including Norplant and Depo Provera have a mechanism that alters the lining of the uterus that may preclude the implantation of an embryo.2   The initial reaction was denial.  Nevertheless a commitment to the sanctity of human life compelled further investigation.  As the research ensued for the following two years, it became increasingly apparent that the evidence supported the claims, and it became this writer’s growing conviction that the use of any hormonal contraceptive device was inconsistent with the sanctity of life belief that affirms the personhood and imago Dei of the human being from the moment of fertilization.3


As the information gained through the research began to be disseminated to students, friends and colleagues, their initial reactions were, not surprisingly, denial and skepticism.  It was thought that there was no way the information could be true.  The basic sentiment was that if this were the case, why are we just now hearing about it?


As this writer’s investigation continues, the information mounts and the convictions grow that hormonal contraceptives are potentially abortifacient and thus not to be recommended to pro-life people who share the sanctity of life view already mentioned above.  It also remains the case that the majority of people who are now becoming exposed to the controversy were in no way aware that it existed.  They are shocked to find out that what they have been using, or used, or are planning to use, in good faith, to plan their families may be effective on account of its interfering with the implantation of already formed human embryos.4   Most who do find out about this, and thus become aware that they may have inadvertently been causing the death of their offspring, are “card-carrying” pro-life advocates who would never consider any form of abortion to be morally permissible.  Why is it the case that the majority of Christians in the church are largely unaware that this controversy even exists?


This ignorance has several important implications and leads to the main concern of this paper. First, a summary of the source of the controversy will be considered; where is the information about which Christians are mostly ignorant? Second, it will be examined as to the prevalence of the ignorance among pro-life people in general as well as pro-life medical professionals.  Third, inquiry will be made into the means used and possible motives that those who are aware of the abortifacient potential of these drugs have for this cover-up.  Finally, some implications will be discussed with regard to this silence as it relates to the debate itself, medical ethics and the pastoral ministry.

 

 

Part One: The Source Of The Controversy


In order to appreciate the silence it would do well to summarize the source of the controversy; the Physicians Desk Reference 2001 (Hence PDR).5 What follows is a brief profile of the hormonal contraceptives described in this reference and then an analysis and brief response to the information from a theological and ethical standpoint.

 

Profile

 

The following medical description is found in the PDR as to how most common “contraceptives” are said to work to keep women from becoming pregnant. This is a description of the contraceptive called Alesse, but also represents the exact wording of the clinical pharmacology of the majority of contraceptives detailed in the book.

 

“Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins.  Although the primary mechanism of this action inhibits ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation).”6 

 

To summarize, the majority of standard contraceptives on the market are designed by their  manufacturers to work as follows:


  1. To prevent ovulation. This means that they prevent a female ovum (egg) from being released from the ovary into the fallopian tube where it can unite with a sperm cell and become fertilized.
  2. To change the cervical mucus, thus increasing the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus. The cervix is like the doorway from the woman’s vagina into the uterus.  Sperm must pass through this doorway to enter into the uterus and on up into the fallopian tube to unite with the ovum top fertilize it. 
  3. 3.      To change the endometrium, which reduces the likelihood of implantation. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus.  It is the place where an embryo implants into the mother and continues to grow through the fetal stages up until it is ready to be born.

 

Analysis and Reflection

If the first two mechanisms prevent fertilization, then there would be no problem with these contraceptives, for they would truly be acting to prevent conception.7  Yet, if these mechanisms do not prevent conception, the third mechanism is designed to prevent the conceived embryo from implanting in the woman’s uterus.  There is no certainty as to the frequency with which any of the mechanisms actually work, so if a woman is on the pill, and she does not become pregnant, any one of the three may have resulted in this, but the one that did remains a mystery.  So if conception occurs, and the newly formed human being cannot implant in the mother’s uterus, there has been an abortion.  For Christians who believe that a person in God’s image has been formed at the very instant that sperm and egg unite, the use of these devices, in view of this potential, becomes extremely problematic.


Another contraceptive, Demulen, has a slightly different description.

“Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins.

Although the primary mechanism of this action inhibits ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium may also contribute to contraceptive effectiveness.”9

 

This description is the same as Alesse and all the others but adds that the changes in the cervical mucus and the endometrium “may also contribute to contraceptive effectiveness,” bringing up an important question; what is contraception?  This depends on who is asked.


If one were so inclined to find out the meaning of such words as pregnancy, conception, and contraception, they would immediately be faced with equivocation, ambiguity and consequent confusion.  For example, the online medical dictionary defines conception as: “The onset of pregnancy, marked by implantation of the blastocyst; the formation of a viable zygote.”10   A zygote, however, precedes a blastocyst, a multicellular bundle, and implantation as is apparent by this same reference’s definition of zygote as, “a single diploid cell resulting from the fusion of male and female gametes at fertilization.”11    This would make conception equivalent with fertilization, but the first part of the definition identifies conception with implantation.  Implantation occurs about 7 days after fertilization.  So the definition for contraception in the same reference, “the prevention of conception or impregnation,” is hardly helpful.12  The online Merriam Webster medical dictionary defines conception as “the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both;” again, the ambiguity.13  One’s understanding of contraception will depend on how he or she defines conception.  On the basis of these two sources, contraception can mean either the prevention of fertilization or implantation or both.


To clear up any ambiguity in terminology for the purpose of this study “conception” will be understood as the union of ovum and sperm, thus equivalent with fertilization. A contraceptive, therefore, will be understood as something that acts against and prevents fertilization.  If ovulation does not occur and/or sperm are inhibited from traveling to reach the ovum in the event of a break through ovulation, then the pill or device can rightly be designated a “contraceptive.”  But if these mechanisms fail and fertilization takes place, and the third mechanism keeps an embryo from implantation, this is equivalent to an abortion.


The PDR also details the mechanism for what has been called the Emergency Contraception Pill (ECP) commonly known as the “Morning After Pill.”  Preven, the brand name, was approved by the FDA in 1998.  This, and their more recent approval of RU-486 (Mifepristone), is seen by pro-lifers as tragic because it will enable women, who are pregnant without wanting to be, to terminate that pregnancy if they are not ready to be a parent. The PDR 2000 description for Preven  reads:

“ECPs . . . act primarily by inhibiting ovulation.  They may also act by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization) and/or possibly altering the endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation).”

 

For analysis, it is useful to put the description of Preven next to the description of most of the contraceptives detailed throughout the PDR.


Preven:

“ECPs . . . act primarily by inhibiting ovulation.  They may also act by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization) and/or possibly altering the endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation).”

 

Most Combination Oral Contraceptives:

“Although the primary mechanism of this action inhibits ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation).”

 

The similarity is clear, yet Christians who regularly prescribe or use contraceptives are quick to condemn ECPs as abortifacients because they are said to “prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.”14  It is surprising that many defenders of these contraceptives have not seen this, or seem to ignore it.  Dr. Joel Goodnough, MD, for example, says they are actually very different. “The mechanism of action of the ‘morning after pill’ is not at all clear.  It may prevent ovulation in some cases and prevent implantation in others, depending on when in the menstrual cycle it is taken.  This is far different from the OCP in both mechanism of action and intent.” 15

It would be inaccurate to call the contraceptives described and referred to above abortifacients per se, like RU-486 or methotrexate, or to say that oral contraceptives cause abortions.  It would be more accurate to say that all contraceptives, while primarily acting to prevent ovulation, have the inherent potential of having an abortifacient effect by altering the endometrium in order to prevent or reduce the likelihood of implantation should fertilization occur. 

Whenever these drugs interfere with the implantation of a human embryo, what Christian pro-lifers call a person created in the image of God, they are no longer a contraceptive, but are acting as an abortifacient. In view of this evidence, it must be seen that the question is a very serious one.  Consequently, to adopt the position that the use of any of the artificial birth control pills listed in the PDR is inconsistent with a biblical sanctity of life ethic may be in order. 

 


Part Two: The Extent of the Ignorance

 

The information of the above section was intended as a brief overview of the information that is the source of this controversy.  It remains to inquire more into the reasons for the nearly ubiquitous ignorance of this information.  Is it possible that people are generally ignorant about these matters because they are supposed to be?


The General Public

The first thing to be said about this lack of knowledge is that it does seem to be prevalent among lay people. Almost everyone who is confronted with this issue expresses hearing it for the first time.  Colleagues, friends, fellow church members, pastors, and so on all respond with initial surprise and denial.

 

The lack of information and lack of teaching about this subject must have a history.  If the manual that details America’s prescription medicines refers to a mechanism of action that can result in an abortion, one must wonder as to the reason for the ignorance.  Drs Walter Larimore and Stephen Stanford have stated, “Despite the evidence, . . .we anecdotally find that few . . . patients are aware of this possibility.  Therefore we believe that the potential for post fertilization effects is probably not routinely presented to patients . . .”16  Then they express the following sentiment, “it is of concern to us that the only one of the many OC information handouts we and others have reviewed, including those produced by the OC manufacturers, mentions the possible post fertilization mechanism, despite the fact that this information is nearly always included in the professional labeling of these same OCs.”17

 

Counselors and pastors

 

In 1976 Pastor Tim LaHaye and his wife Beverly wrote The Act of Marriage.   This book on married sexual love sold in the millions and was read and recommended by pastors to their pre-marital counselees.  In their chapter entitled “Sane Family Planning” the LaHaye’s address the delicate issue of family planning using some form of artificial birth control whether that be barrier methods or some other method.  In their description about “The Pill” they have this to say about what they identified at that time as the “most effective” method for controlling conception.

 

When the tablets are taken as directed it is believed that they control ovulation, for no egg has ripened.  Thus sperm may freely enter the oviducts without the possibility of conception occurring.  In this way the oral tablet provides the advantage of protection at all times.

Because of its safety and simplicity, we consider the pill the preferred method for a new bride in the early stages of marriage . . . we suggest she see her doctor at least two months prior to her wedding and follow his advice.18

 

There was no warning about the possibility that the pill could result in an abortion.  And it was never mentioned in this author’s pre-marital counseling, when the book was assigned.  There’s no doubt that the LaHaye’s did not know about it, because if they had they would probably have included such a warning.  This is believed to be the case because of their treatment on the IUD in the same chapter in which they said, “The IUD was highly proclaimed when it first came out because laymen did not realize that it allowed for conception and later aborted the fetus.  Since it is an abortive device, we DO NOT recommend it.  (Their emphasis).”19  Yet it seems that like the “laymen” ignorant of the IUD’s abortifacient properties, they were unaware of the Pill’s abortifacient properties. Yet the information was available even at that time.20

            Another example of a pro-life pastor who was unaware of this is Randy Alcorn. He shares his story in his book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortion.

 

To make the issue personal, let me tell you my own story.  In 1991, while researching my book ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments, I heard someone suggest that birth control pills can cause abortions. This was brand new to me—in all my years as a pastor and a prolifer, I had never heard it before. I was immediately skeptical.

My vested interests were strong in that Nanci and I used the Pill in the early years of our marriage, as did many of our pro-life friends. Why not? We believed it simply prevented conception. We never suspected it had any potential for abortion.  No one told us this was even a possibility.21

 

Alcorn goes on to describe how he dealt with the issue in his pastoral counseling. “In fourteen years as a pastor, doing considerable premarital counseling, I always warned couples against the IUD because I’d read it causes early abortions. I typically recommended young couples use the Pill because of its relative ease and effectiveness.”22

 

Medical Professionals


Perhaps more disturbing is the ignorance among medical professionals, those from whom the people get their drugs and information.  In the initial stages of this research in this writer’s experience, several nurses were asked about what the endometrium had to do with conception.   The question about the endometrium seemed important as central to the issue at hand.    These medical professionals were asked about this before they were shown the descriptions in the PDR, and each admitted the endometrium has nothing to do with conception, in either its cause or prevention (we were all defining conception as synonymous with fertilization).  They admitted, in the end, that the effect that these pills are designed to have on the endometrium would have to be for one purpose, to prevent implantation.  This came as an obvious surprise to them. It was unsettling to find three medical professionals completely ignorant about the abortifacient potential of contraceptives.


Even Doctors have been unaware of this potential, and what’s worse, even those doctors who prescribed them!  Dr. Walter Larimore, MD, shares his testimony as follows:


I have prescribed the Pill since 1978. My wife and I used the Pill for years, having no moral concerns about it.  Then in 1995 my friend and practice partner John Hartman, MD, showed me a patient information brochure – given to him by a friend- that claimed the Pill had a post fertilization affect causing  . . . the unrecognized loss of pre-born children. 23

 

Dr. Larimore relates how his reaction was that this claim was “outlandish, excessive, and inaccurate.”   This was an impetus for his own crusade to disprove it.  The research that he did, however, confirmed the claim.  He writes, “after many months of debate and prayer, I decided in 1998 to no longer prescribe the Pill.  As a family physician, my career has been committed to family care from conception to death.”24  In view of the discussion about the ignorance of medical professionals he commented, “so many of our colleagues . . . share our ignorance about this potential effect that we presented . . .”25

 


Part Three: Ignorant by Design? 
 

 

The ignorance about this controversy among lay people and professionals raises the question as to why it this way.  The answer being suggested by this study is that the reason that the vast majority of Christians, let alone society at large, are ignorant of these matters is that they are supposed to be.  The following will seek to confirm this speculation.  Just a cursory examination of the history of the pill discloses a pro-choice/pro-population control philosophy that lay behind this phenomenon.


An American Life League online article exposes this mentality among some of the promoters of the pill in its earliest days.

 

Gregory Pincus, co-developer of the pill, credits a visit from Planned Parenthood's founder Margaret Sanger who promised research money for the development of the pill.  Sanger, who supported abortion, was concerned about developing a pill as a means of curbing the “population explosion.” Like Sanger, pill supporters who shared Sanger's demographic concerns, such as Dr. Robert Kistner of Harvard, were less concerned about means than ends: “Our efforts to control population growth should not lead to mass guilt about methodology. It would be tragic if an effective postcoital pill or long-term progestational agent were declared illegal because of its abortifacient effect.26

 

Also telling is how word games have been played as an apparent ploy to get the public’s mind off of the abortifacient potential of the newly devised contraceptive drugs.  This is apparent in Bent Boving’s remarks.  At a 1959 Planned Parenthood/Population Council symposium Boving stated,  "Whether eventual control of implantation can be reserved the social advantage of being considered to prevent conception rather than to destroy an established pregnancy could depend upon something so simple as a prudent habit of speech.”27


This apparently became the focus in view of the following statement made by Dr. Tietze, of Planned Parenthood and the Population Council.  Realizing the impact that any knowledge that the drugs might act as an abortifacient, Tietze suggested, "not to disturb those people for whom this is a question of major importance."28  He was apparently referring to “theologians and jurists” who have always taken the prevailing biological and medical consensus of their times as factual.  In view of this, said Tietze,  "if a medical consensus develops and is maintained that pregnancy, and therefore life, begins at implantation, eventually our brethren from the other faculties will listen."29


Seemingly following suit in 1965, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) changed its definition of conception.  For this body of physicians, since 1965, "CONCEPTION is the implantation of the fertilized ovum."30

In commenting on this connotative change for philosophic purposes dealing with the IUD, Dr. Richard Sosnowski said he was troubled: "... that, with no scientific evidence to validate the change, the definition of conception as the successful spermatic penetration of an ovum was redefined as the implantation of a fertilized ovum. It appears to me that the only reason for this was the dilemma produced by the possibility that the intrauterine contraceptive device might function as an abortifacient."31   It seems the same for not just the IUD, but also the devices and hormones that are intended “primarily” to prevent ovulation.

Despite attempts at redefinition, the Food and Drug Administration issued the following mandate with regard to all pill prescriptions “The Food and Drug Administration will regard as misbranded and subject to regulatory action any oral contraceptive that is shipped in interstate commerce ... after April 6, 1977 without labeling that is substantially the same as set forth in this notice."  The mandatory prescribing information according to the FDA was to sate that,


Combination oral contraceptives ... Although the primary mechanism of action is inhibition of ovulation, alterations ... in the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation) may also contribute to contraceptive effectiveness ... progestin oral contraceptives are known to ... exert a progestational effect on the endometrium, interfering with implantation, and, in some patients suppress ovulation.32


More recently, a December 7, 2001 press release from the Family Research Council points up the deliberate attempts of some to keep the American Public ignorant.  It read:


The American Medical Association (AMA) voted overwhelmingly this week against a proposal to inform women of the abortion-inducing potential of the birth control pill. Citing the AMA's dedication to enhancing the patient/physician relationship, the Alabama doctor who submitted the proposal during the AMA's annual meeting believes full disclosure about the birth control pill should be made to patients to help them make choices.

The prescribing information for Ortho Tri-Cyclen, a popular oral contraceptive, enumerates three pathways by which the pill works: suppressing ovulation, preventing fertilization and precluding the implantation of an already fertilized egg. The third one constitutes an abortion. The third function is conspicuously excluded from information made available to patients.33

 

Alcorn tells of two individuals whom he interviewed while writing his book on the pill’s relation to abortion.34  They have both been employed by major pharmaceutical companies.  As a sales representative, Karen Witt was instructed to provide physicians with sample birth control pills.  It troubled her when she discovered that one of the pills mechanisms was to render the endometrium unfavorable for implantation.  Witt knew this would mean abortion.  When she confronted her employers about this she was told, “don’t worry about how they work, the point is they do; don’t ask questions, just give out the samples.”  In a consumer pamphlet produced by the manufacturer the first two mechanisms only are mentioned.  Alcorn writes, “The consumer pamphlet they produce, Birth Control with the Pill, has a section entitled ‘How the Pill Works’ which lists only the first two mechanisms, not the third. Though both their professional labeling and their salesperson training acknowledge the third way the Pill works, in the literature given to consumers, it is simply left out.”  Consequently, Witt has become convinced of “a cover-up not only from the general public, including users of their products, but a cover-up from physicians and pharmacists.” “I believe there is a definite conspiracy of silence on the part of the manufacturer about the abortive effects of the Pill.”  The more she inquired and challenged, Witt was branded a troublemaker and eventually fired.  The second individual is a gentleman who has been demoted on account of his refusal, to promote the pill due to it’s abortifacient potential.  A final example that demonstrates the attempt to omit this information is found on the Alesse website.  While the clinical pharmacology in the PDR provides three mechanisms and a PDF on the site details the same information, one must wonder why the splash page information, that will most likely be the only information that prospective consumers read, states,


[Alesse] contains man-made versions of the natural hormones estrogen and progesterone. Because of these hormones, the Pill prevents a woman's reproductive organs from preparing for pregnancy in two ways:

 

  • It stops the ovary from releasing an egg
  • It prevents the man's sperm from entering the uterus by thickening the mucus produced by the woman's cervix so that it forms a natural barrier35

 

 

 

 

The splash page information draws attention only to two mechanisms and leads one to conclude that these are the only two mechanisms by which the pill works.


            It seems obvious that the abortifacient potential of these contraceptives is not information that those who promote these medications wish the general public to know, but why?  The remark made about IUDs by Dr. Mary Calderone, the medical director of Planned Parenthood in 1962, gives a possible clue; "if it turns out that these intrauterine devices operate as abortifacients, not only the Catholic Church will be against them, but Protestant churches as well."36

 
            Is it possible that there was and is a specific attempt to deny those who have philosophical and religious differences with the contraceptives promoters the information that would probably move them not to use them?  Is there fear that their anti-population agenda will be undermined if Catholics and Protestants stop using the pills and other devices?  Was/is there a monetary motivation, realizing that the common awareness of the abortifacient potential of these drugs would inevitably lead to a drop in revenue when Protestants (in particular evangelicals who hold to the belief that our uniqueness as beings created in God’s image begins at fertilization) discontinue purchasing their product?   Whatever the motivation may have been, or is, it is safe to conclude that it was and is the awareness of their abortifacient potential that makes their promoters leery of letting this third mechanism become public knowledge.

 

 

Part Four: Implications


 For the debate

 

 Of course, there are pro-life physicians and ethicists who still see no problem with the contraceptives.  Their burden as pro-lifers who hold to the sanctity of life from the moment of conception, of course, forces them to research the drugs so as to determine that they do not, in fact, prevent implantation at all.  It is not the purpose of this study to deal with the pro and con arguments about contraceptives.  Rather it is to point out that this “conspiracy of silence” as Karen Witt calls it, is in itself quite telling.  Why do those who promote these devices wish to cover it up?  They know that the FDA requires that they include it in the detailed labeling information, but they keep it conspicuously absent from the more general promotional materials.  Obviously it is because the pill does have this affect, and this is the way it is designed to work.


This is an important point in the overall debate because pro-life advocates of the combined oral contraceptives are wont to say that while the pill may cause an abortion, and this would be tragic, the chances are so remote that it should not even concern us, especially if the pill is taken correctly and consistently.  In this regard Dr. Joel Goodnough, an advocate of contraceptives, remarks, “Any medication, if taken in a way other than for which it was designed, can have a different adverse effect.  That certainly does not mean that the adverse affect is present when the medication is taken correctly.”37  Research, it is suggested, proves that the majority of the time the drugs prevent ovulation, as they were designed to do. 38

 

In answer to these objections it must first be reiterated that these contraceptives are designed to prevent implantation, not just fertilization. The effect on the endometrium is not listed as an “adverse affect” but as a mechanism of operation of the pill when taken correctly and responsibly.  It is apparently part of the design of the contraceptives to alter the endometrium in order to prevent implantation, which in modern parlance is tantamount to conception, which in turn reorients the meaning of contraception.  Anyone who suggests that the prevention of implantation is a “side effect” or “adverse effect” of using the pill consistently and correctly has missed the point.39

 

Crockett, Harrison, DeCook and Hersh distinctly identify themselves as pro-life Ob/Gyns who generally support the prescribing and use of OCPs  among Christians.  They state unequivocally, “Fertilization, not implantation, marks the beginning of human life.  Disruption of the fertilized egg represents abortion.”40   In their conclusion of this essay that supports the pill they say the following, “If scientific study should validate that a hormone contraceptive is partly abortifacient in its action, we would oppose that agent just as we oppose elective medical and surgical abortions (Emphasis mine).”41

 

Isn’t it “partly” enough that the clinical pharmacology of the PDR says that the pills were specifically designed to prevent implantation?  Yet it is a function that it seems the manufacturers would, if they could, leave out of the literature. Why has this deliberate silence not bothered these pro-life doctors and ethicists?  Isn’t this “conspiracy of silence” in itself indicative that the impact that these devices have on the endometrium is a very significant fact?

  

For Medical Ethics  

 

In response to the AMA’s deliberate decision not to so inform patients, Dr. Joe Diggs commented,


The AMA is doing a great disservice to women by refusing to fully inform them of their birth control options. Since informed consent is a basic medical ethic, it should be standard operating procedure to tell women that the birth control pill can cause an abortion. Each woman has the right to know what's good for her health and acceptable to her conscience. If the AMA has suppressed its conscience, it shouldn't draw American women into its own ethical lapses.42

 

Larimore and Stanford agree,  “If this mechanism of the OC violates the moral requirements of a woman, then failure to disclose this information jeopardizes her autonomy.”43

 

Two principles that the AMA promotes is informed consent and autonomy.  Nevertheless, they have decided to take both of these away from American women when it comes to their contraceptive choices.  One can see the effectiveness of the cover up in Dr. Larimore’s own testimony of how he, as a medical doctor, prescribed the pill for twenty years before he ever knew of this controversy.  Perhaps he was never supposed to know.44

 

Larimore and Stanford remark that, “for women to whom the induced loss of a preembryo or embryo is important, failure to discuss this possibility, even if the possibility is judged to be remote, would be a failure of informed consent.”45   This is coercive manipulation through silence.  It seems that with regard to this particular issue, the AMA and some physicians are manipulating ignorant patients by coercion to adopt their views regarding unborn life.  It appears more to be a lack of consideration for the biblical worldview and those who may have moral convictions about the pill – where is the tolerance in this?

 
For Ministry

 

Pastors must be informed and informative on this issue.  They must be aware of the controversy surrounding the contraceptives that a great number in their congregations are using without the slightest knowledge that they could be causing the death of their offspring. This is a theological issue insofar as it bears on the sanctity of life, and the intrinsic value of human life from conception, and it is a ministerial issue in that pastors are responsible to teach parents to care for their offspring, part of which entails not doing anything that may, even inadvertently, bring them harm or kill them.

 

The purpose of this final section is to demonstrate that if the “conspiracy of silence” is a fact, the presentation of this information to believers from this angle, viz. that they have been victims of a cover-up intended to take away their autonomy to live out their biblical worldview, and to take away their choice to uphold the dignity and sanctity of life, then perhaps God’s people might be more inclined to take action.  This “you’ve been denied information you have a right to know” approach may actually give pastors an edge in informing their congregations and having people take this information seriously.


From this writer’s experience, and as any minister of God’s word knows, God’s people are not always ready to receive information that challenges their present behaviors.  When a new angle on “be not conformed to this world” is brought before them, they are resistant, and this resistance is proportionate to the degree that they have been involved in the behavior under question.  It is human nature to at first resist the truth, and this, indeed, is a hard truth to receive.  Ignorance in this matter truly has been bliss.  They have not really had to think of alternatives to family planning.46   But it is also human nature to become outraged when we discover that we have been “used” or manipulated to unwittingly advance a pro-choice agenda and that our beliefs have not been respected by a larger secular society.

 


Conclusion:

 

It is hoped that this study will serve to weigh in on the present debate by pointing out the fact that the public in general, and pro-life Christians in particular, has been denied the opportunity to make an informed moral decision because of the cover-up of the potential abortifacient effects of common contraceptives.  This cover-up has been deliberate and it is time to break the silence.  A powerful institution, America’s pharmaceutical companies and medical administrators, that does not share these pro-life views, has cleverly manipulated Christians who are pro-life and believe in the sanctity and dignity of all human life from the moment of conception.  This institution largely scoffs at the radical views of individuals who, for religious and moral reasons, consider the newly formed human zygote just as much a part of the human family as any born person, and who equally share our right to life.


The rhetoric of those who oppose this view is that pro-life Christians can have their beliefs and that is fine, but they should keep them to themselves, and refrain from imposing them on those who disagree with them.  Likewise, they believe, in the name of tolerance, that pro-lifers should let those who disagree with them have the same freedom to choose not to respect and protect the life of the unborn.  Yet in view of this study it has become apparent that this courtesy is only given lip-service, because those who hold the reigns of the reproductive medications, and consequently how much information they can give the public, shows up a contradiction on their part.  In their cover-up they have effectively made it so that their pro-abortion, anti population growth philosophy is “forced” upon millions of unwitting people who are opposed to this worldview and agenda.  This disingenuous double standard is nothing short of an immoral attempt to impose an antithetical worldview in a continued effort to make millions of dollars annually through sustaining this ignorance.  Christians must become alert to their times.  They must be alerted to the fact that they have been denied their American rights to know, and then to act freely according to the dictates of their conscience on the basis of that knowledge.  Christians must act and speak truth to power and among themselves to the glory of God and for the good of all humans created in the imago Dei.

 

 

 

Notes

  1. The “devices” under consideration will consistently be referred to as contraceptives throughout this paper for simplification.  It is understood by this writer that part of the controversy hinges on distinctions made between progestin-only-pills (POPs or mini pills), and combination oral contraceptives (COCs).  Further, all these can be subsumed under the designation OC for oral contraceptive.  It is also realized that there are some contraceptive devices that are not administered orally, such as the implant Norplant, or the      injectible Depo Provera.  Finally not even the term “contraceptives,” which this writer will use to refer to the medications under question, is sufficient, since some contraceptives, like condoms, spermicidal foams and jellies and diaphragms are not under the scrutiny of the present debate.
  2. The pamphlet is no longer in the possession of this writer but the information that first informed him and stimulated the research on the issue is easily accessible at the American Life League’s website at <http://www.all.org/news/declife.htm>.
  3. The issue of the personhood of the unborn from the moment of fertilization will serve as an assumption of this paper and will not be argued.
  4. Another assumption that this paper will not argue is that family planning is not inherently wrong, but that it is within the parameters of a biblical morality for a Christian couple to choose whether, when and how many children they will produce.
  5. Physicians Desk Reference, 55th ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 2001 Further references within this paper to the 2002 edition will be designated by “PDR”
  6. Ibid., p. 3204
  7. The difficulty surrounding the term “contraception” and related terms will be dealt with at a later time in this study.
  8.  Other pills listed that have the same exact clinical pharmacology as Alesse are the following (with their page numbers in the PDR): Brevicon, Estroslep p. 2246, Levlen/Levlite p. 749, Levora 3174, Loestrin 2257, Lo/Ovral 3267, Mircette 2097, Modicon 2184, Necon 3180, Nordette 3275, Norinyl 2891, Nor-QD 3184, Ortho-Cept 2168, Ortho Cylen 2191, Ortho-Novum 2184, Ortho Tri-Cyclen 2191, Ovcon 838, Ovral 3288
  9.  Ibid., p. 2911
  10. The Online Medical Dictionary, Published by the Dept. of Medical Oncology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1997-2002, q.v. “conception.” Internet-online <http://cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/omd?conception> [November, 2002]
  11.  Ibid. q.v. “zygote.” Internet-online <http://cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/omd?zygote> [November, 2002]
  12. Ibid. q.v. “contraception.” Internet-online <http://cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/omd?contraception> [November, 2002]
  13. The Merriam Webster Online Medical Dictionary. Published Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1997, q.v. “conception.” Internet-online <http://www.intelihealth.com/cgi-bin/dictionary.cgi?book=Medical&adv=0&cgi=1&t=9276&p=%7Ebr%2CIHW%7C%7Est%2C408%7C%7Er%2CWSIHW000%7C%7Eb%2C*%7C&WEB_HOME=%2FIH%2F&MIVAL=ihtIH&WEB_HOST=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.intelihealth.com&va=conception>
  14.  The Washington Post, September 3, 1998
  15.  Joel Goodnough, “Redux: Is the Oral Contraceptive Pill an Abortifacient?” Ethics and Medicine, 2001; 17:1, p. 41.
  16.  Walter Larimore and Stephen Stanford, Postfertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and      Their Relationship to Informed Consent, ARCH FAM MED. 2000, 9; p. 130.
  17.  Ibid.
  18. Tim and Beverly LaHaye, The Act of Marriage (Grand Rapids, Zondervan: 1976), p. 200
  19.  Ibid, p. 202  Another comment worth making on this point is that Beverly LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America website features a “Glossary of Abortifacients” which includes the discussion of The Pill’s abortifacient potential. Available online at <http://www.cwfa.org/library/life/1998-07_pp_glossary.shtml> [November 2002]
  20.  This will become more apparent in a later discussion dealing with the history of the pill and contraception in general.
  21. Randy Alcorn, Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?. 5th ed. revised 2000 Internet-online <http://www.epm.org/bcpill1.html> [November, 2002]
  22.  Ibid.
  23. Walter Larimore and Stephen Stanford, Postfertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and Their Relationship to Informed Consent, ARCH FAM MED. 2000, 9:126-133
  24.  Ibid, p. 133
  25. Ibid.
  26. American Life League. A Declaration of Life By Prolife Physicians, Internet-online <http://www.all.org/news/declife.htm> [August, 1998]
  27.  

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