Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Redefining 'Pregnancy' to Justify Abortifacients

There is a new story out about a new 'medication' that is available outside of the United States.  This new medication, called ellaOne, is considered emergency contraception, and works up to five days after administration (as opposed to Plan B that works approx 72hrs).  This medication was originally designed to treat uterine fibroids by selectively inhibiting progesterone receptors, which decreased the size of the fibroids and also decreased the bleeding.  So, what is the big controversy?

By selectively inhibiting the progesterone receptors, this medication is making implantation impossible, and thus causing the embryo to be aborted.  Here is part of the story from ABC:
While it is not yet available in the United States, the new pill may one day offer American women yet another option for preventing pregnancy. But critics of the drug say that it is not so much emergency contraception as emergency abortion.
"This is a thinly-veiled attempt to get an abortion drug over-the-counter," said Dr. Donna Harrison, president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Because fertilization of egg and sperm can only be prevented within 24 hours of intercourse if the woman has just ovulated, Harrison says, any emergency contraceptive that is effective five days after sex most likely works by preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. And if one believes pregnancy begins with fertilization, that action would be considered abortion.
"To label this as emergency contraception when it's clearly an abortive action is dishonest," said Harrison.
Note that Dr. Harrison is part of AAPLOG (a group any pro-life physician should be familiar with).  She effectively points out that physiologically speaking, this is working as an abortifacient! But look how the opposition responds:
But according to Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical instructor in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern Medical School, thinking that emergency contraception is equivalent to an abortion "is a big misconception."
It takes five to seven days for the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus and begin to grow, she says. She argues that if one interrupts the process before this implantation takes place, pregnancy never begins.
"There are many people who are reluctant to take emergency contraception because they think it's abortive, but it's apples and oranges," she said. "With emergency contraception, it's really to stop a pregnancy of occurring."
Dr. Streicher admits that this prevents implantation, but does not necessarily prevent conception.  So here we have it, the redefining of pregnancy. A current medical definition of pregnancy is:
pregnancy preg·nan·cy (prěg'nən-sē)
  1. The condition of a woman or female mammal from conception until birth; the condition of being pregnant.
  2. The period during which a woman or female mammal is pregnant. Also called cyesis.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
"From conception until birth".   NOT implantation.  But, pro-abortion and pro-contraception individuals cannot live with this definition because it does not suit their views on the relationship of abortion and contraception.  Any thing that prevents implantation is causing an abortion.  Period.

We must not let ourselves be caught up in the whims of our peers as they attempt to justify their pro-death actions by simply changing definitions or ignoring medical fact.  These incremental steps are leading us down a path that will be the end of medicine and our society.


  1. Anonymous2:07 PM

    I think you are confusing RU 486 (mifepristone) with plan B (levonorgestrel). Neither of which work only for 24 hrs. Plan B is up to 72 hrs, preventing implantation, and RU 486 works up to 49 days gestation, after implantation.

  2. Thanks, I fixed that.

  3. Anonymous5:22 PM

    The dictionary you cited also has this to say about pregnancy: "Pregnancy usually lasts 40 weeks, beginning from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period[...]." Technically speaking, it's incorrect to start from the first day of the last menstrual period. I'm not trying to say that the definition it provides for pregnancy is wrong per say, but if you are considering it a hard fact then you're quoting from an erred source. Plus you can find other definitions elsewhere such as this from Medline, "pregnant: containing a developing embryo, fetus, or unborn offspring within the body."

    Saying that there is a hardline fast definition is really difficult since medical dictionaries do not all contain the same definition. And if you argue your point from the definition you provided you would indeed be correct. If you argue from the definition I provided, technically Dr. Streicher would be correct in calling the medication non-abortive since the embryo does not begin to develop until after implantation. It is a matter of semantics.

    I would not disagree with you that you are indeed preventing life with this new medication, but as one of your future peers, I would not be changing any definitions if I chose to tell women that this medication is not terminating the pregnancy, I would just be citing a different one.

  4. In actual fact, the embryo is maturing even prior to implantation. It is not a single cell that implants, but rather the blastocyst is what attaches to the uterine wall. So, to say that the embryo does not develop until after implantation is completely false, especially considering it is already organizing into specialized structures and releasing hormones. Biologically there is no argument saying that the unimplanted embryo is not a living being. It has unique genetics and is self organizing/directing and is the beginning of a long processes. There is no special event post implantation that makes the embryo 'alive'.

  5. The last day of the menstrual cycle is used to determine the due date. Moreover, there is typically only 7 days between end of flow and ovulation (assuming a 28 day cycle, which this definition does), so really, it is fairly close...

  6. Anonymous3:08 PM

    Point taken, division of the egg begins before implantation, but still referring to the same definition I provided for pregnant above and taking into account that an embryo is defined as "the developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after conception" one can still argue that you're not pregnant until implantation.

    And if you're sticking with the argument that pro-choice people are trying to "change" definitions to support their argument, how would you respond to the fact that pro-life advocates in Atlanta are trying to bring racial tension into the argument to support their side, when in fact the opposite that they claim is true (

  7. Again, considering definitions, embryo and fetus are arbitrary delineations of a continuous process. There are more specified terms used, such as zygote, blastocyst, morula, etc. I would continue to argue that the definition of 'pregnancy' is being changed in order to justify abortifacient drugs. I make this argument not just in regards to the use of definitions, but scientific fact concerning the developing human (which begins at the moment of conception and continues until death). This is not an argument about personhood, just about the fact that at the moment of conception a new member of the human species has come into existence.

    As for the racism argument. If you ever take time to read Margaret Sanger's original works, you will see they were rife with racism, eugenics, and anti Catholicism. So, I do not think that pro-life advocates are bringing anything into this argument, rather they are stating the epidemiologicial and sociological facts: minorities have a disproportionatly large number of abortions and it seems advertising and clinic placement target these neighborhoods and groups. I think Margaret Sanger would be pleased that there are so many black babies being aborted, because in her mind, she would see the purification of the race occur. Killing people to end poverty is not a very humane solution.