How Does the Morning-After Pill Work?

you've got mail A big part of our job at Generations for Life is to serve as an educational resource for students. We frequently get requests for information on abortion from students who are working on school-related projects on the subject, and from others who are seeking answers simply out of a desire to learn more about it. This e-mail we received last week from Jenifer, a high school senior from Ontario, Canada, is one such example. I’m posting it here since the questions Jenifer raises are very common ones:

Dear Sir or Madame, I am a high school senior who completed a Summit Ministries Conference this summer. The reason I am emailing is because I need some help and Summit recommended you. You see my friends and I were talking about Abortion and we eventually turned to the topic of the day after pill. All of the other girls believed it should be use be cause they said “It takes three days for the sperm and egg to connect.” My sister told me that was nonsense and I believe her…but I don’t have the proof! What do I say to something like that?!?! If you could help me up I would appreciate it! I’ve been feeling overwhelmed!

Here’s our reply: Dear Jenifer, Thanks for writing. The questions you have are very common ones, because there are a lot of misconceptions — even among pro-lifers — about the morning-after pill. I’ll do my best to address them as clearly as possible. The first question to look at is: What is the morning-after pill (MAP), and how does it work? The MAP is like the regular birth control pill, only much stronger. The MAP, like the regular birth control pill, works by preventing ovulation — and, therefore, preventing conception (also called fertilization, the point at which sperm and egg unite) — but, even if ovulation does occur, the MAP, like the birth control pill, can prevent implantation. We know this is how the birth control pill works because the manufacturers tell us this is how it works. Right now, I’m looking at the insert that’s included in a case of Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo Tablets — one of many common brands of birth control pills, which says the following:

Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. 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 the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation).

There’s another issue to be addressed here also: When does conception take place? The answer is: It depends. It can occur just minutes after intercourse. Sometimes, though, it happens later, because sperm can live in a woman’s body for a few days (estimates vary — some say 3-5 days; some say 4-6 days; some say 5-7 days). Regardless, it’s possible for conception to take place a few days after intercourse. So, when your friend tells you, “It takes three days for the sperm and egg to connect,” that’s very misleading. It may take that long — or perhaps longer — but sometimes it takes just minutes. For more on this, please see the chapter “The Human Embryo” from Abortion: Questions and Answers by Dr. John Willke. So now, the question is: Does the morning-after pill cause abortions? The answer is: Very possibly, yes. It’s not really possible to say how often it causes abortions for the reasons stated above — because the length of time after intercourse that conception occurs can vary. As the morning-after pill relates to abortion, the best way to explain why using the morning-after pill is immoral is to say that it has the potential to act as an abortifacient (meaning, a drug that can cause an abortion). This analogy might help explain why it’s immoral: Imagine that someone fires a gun into a dark room. He doesn’t know if anyone is in the room, but he does know it’s possible there might be someone in there. Imagine that there is actually someone in the room, and that person is killed by the gunshots. Is the shooter responsible for the man’s death? Of course he is, because he knew it was possible there might be someone in there when he fired the gun. The same is true with using the morning-after pill: assuming they know how the morning-after pill works, the woman who takes it — and the man who encourages her to take it — don’t know for sure if they’ve already conceived a child, but they know it’s possible that they have, and by taking the MAP, they’re willing to abort that child. In a way, the whole question of whether the morning-after pill causes abortions misses the point. That’s because not only is abortion sinful, but so is contraception. Not only does the Bible condemn it (see, for example, Genesis 38:8-10 and Deuteronomy 23:1), but it has made the problem of abortion worse, for many different reasons. For more on the connection between birth control and abortion, I’d recommend you read this. I’d also urge you to check out these quotations — many of which are from people in the abortion industry itself — who recognize the connection between contraception and abortion. I hope I’ve answered your questions. If I’ve confused you in any way, please let me know, and I’ll try to be more clear. Please feel free to contact us again if you have any further questions.

Share Tweet Email