How 'The Pill' Works

Tina writes:

I'll take a stab at number 1 - why the Pill presents a problem for us.

The Pill works in 3 possible ways. It's main effect is to prevent ovulation. But, breakthrough ovulation does occur (and as the level of hormones has decreased over time to reduce side effects, this breakthrough could possibly be higher). In this case, the 2nd mechanism - thickening the cervical mucous so that sperm cannot get through to fertilize the egg--would come into play. Both of these mechanisms are truly "contraceptive"--they prevent fertilization.

However, the 3rd mechanism is problematic in that it thins the lining of the uterus, making it inhospitable to a newly fertilized egg (a baby), so that it cannot implant. This would cause the abortion of a week old baby.

The dilemna occurs because no one knows how often this 3rd mechanism actually happens. We know that all 3 mechanisms fail and women do sometimes get pregnant while on the Pill, and go on to deliver healthy babies. But there have been no studies to show how often fertilizations occur and fail--nor is there any incentive for the makers of the Pill to conduct these studies.

I've heard this 3rd mechanism described as a "marketing ploy" to increase the user's confidence in the product. But this is described in the very technical patient insert that is impossible to read or understand without an MD--NOT in the slick pamphlets handed out at the doctor's office.

I'm not sure why pro-lifers are so reluctant to take the Pill makers at their word when they say how the product works. Perhaps our ease and convenience are more important? And if it is explained away in this manner, the consience can be soothed.

Obviously, for we who believe life begins at conception, this 3rd mechanism is a problem. Ob-gyn's will not consider this to be an abortion, however. The medical community defines pregnancy as beginning at *implantation*, not fertilization. If the baby doesn't implant, the woman is not pregnant, so she cannot abort.

For me, because the risk is unknown, I chose to not take the risk with the life of one of my children. It seems others hold the opinion that because the risk is unsubstantiated, we can continue using the Pill in good conscience, until it is proven otherwise. I hold that we should NOT use it until it is proven that it does not pose a threat to a tiny baby.

I believe that if we are to be wrong in this matter, I would rather be wrong on the side of life.

Respectfully submitted,


jconner said...

Well said Tina,

Allow me to add another concern about the pill and, for that matter, all contraceptives.

Contraceptives treat pregnancy/fertility as if it was a side-effect of sex. In other words, we want sex without the consequeces i.e. children.

This is why I believe pro-lifers should not only oppose the pill and other potential abortifacients, but also barrier methods such as the condom.

While there is no concern over aborting a child with the barrier method, the midset that leads to the use of barrier methods and the midset that using barrier methods can produce is one that is contrary to conception. In this way, the pill and barrier methods are identical.

Again, it leads couples to say, we want sex, but not the children sex produces.

I have not commented on NFP here and why it is different and to be preferred to the pill and all contraceptives - that will come later. For now, I wanted to respond to Point one and add another concern about the pill/all contraceptives.


Tina said...

I would add that most contraceptives treat fertility as a disease that we must be protected from. When do we usually take a pill? When we are sick. A barrier is used to make sex "safe"--to protect us from pregnancy and other std's. Sterilization in our society is referred to as 'getting fixed'--implying the natural fertile state is somehow broken.

When God created us, He made us fertile--to be creatures who could have sex and get pregnant. To me, by trying to separate the unitive from the procreative, we are, in effect, saying to God, "you goofed. You should have made us to be creatures who could have sex and NOT get pregnant (unless we wanted to)." It is a case of the pot questioning the Potter, "Why did you make me so?"

God joined sex and babies. Is it up to us to separate it? "What God has joined together..." and all that.


Jeremy said...

I'm looking forward to that post. I understand, and agree with, the objection to chemical methods of birth control. But for the life of me I cannot see how barrier methods and NFP are any different.

Caspar said...

I don't have a lot of time to post as we just had our sixth child in September, am the founder and president of a charter school, and chairman of the church council, but I'd be glad to contribute to this blog in what little time I find between the lines. This subject has been a personal crusade of mine for over 5 years on Lutheran discussion sites. I have been rather coarse in my treatment of this subject overall, because I rarely found any Lutherans who did not totally reject the historic biblical teaching on birth control. Now that there seems to be more Lutherans addressing this topic, I think it's time for me to tone down the rhetoric. I am thrilled that you have started this blog and I like the tone you are taking and the systematic approach you are seeking to lead the discussion.

At this point, and in consideration of your current point in the discussion, I offer the following, which I believe says it all with regard to hormonal birth control:

Postfertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and Their Relationship to Informed Consent -- Larimore and Stanford 9 (2): 126 -- Archives of Family Medicine


Erich Heidenreich, DDS

Pr. David Rufner said...


No doubt you will immediately begin to hear from many the difference between NFP and other forms of contraceptives. I hope those present comments are helpful. Keep up those conversations.

I hope, however, that it won't be too discouraging to tell you that your curiosoity concerning the distinciton between NFP and contraceptives will constitute the tail end of this discussion (at least discussion round #1).

I do not, however, mean to leave you out in the cold. In 'The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe' by C.S Lewis, Narnia is described at the beginning of the book as a place where it is "always winter and never Christmas." That's not the case here.

Looking forward to your additions to the dicussion Jeremy...


Anonymous said...


If there's no difference between condoms and NFP, why not use 100% NFP? Looking at it that way, the question can be seen in a different light!

No matter where you stand on the issue, you have to admit NFP requires self-control, respect for the gift of fertility, communication and mutual cooperation, whereas barriers are a means of avoiding those demands.

I can understand couples saying NFP is too hard, we can't use it exclusively to avoid pregnancy. But I have never understood how anyone could say it was the same as using a barrier.

But I guess I'm jumping ahead. . .sorry :)


Devona said...

I specifically identify with Tina's comment about treating fertility as an illness.

I find it odd to stand on the opposite side of culture, which struggles as hard as it can to supress fertility until convenient. I, on the other hand, rejoice when I am most fertile since I have had fertility problems in the past with my PCOS.

I have actually had people say that they wish that they could have PCOS so that they wouldn't have to take medication to avoid pregnancy. I think that mentality demonstrates the effects of the contraceptive age on the world. People would rather be unhealthy, risk cancers, and the possibility of never having children (all risks of my disease if not properly treated) for the convenience of not having to worry about being pregnant today.

What is most ironic about this train of thought I'm riding on is that it doesn't end here. It's not just having a fertility problem that causes all those health risks. The pill itself causes a hightened risk of cervical and breast cancer as well as heart disease. So women aren't just jokingly saying that a health problem is better than pregnancy, they are actually putting themselves at risk for health problems in order to avoid children.

Using hormonal contraceptives doesn't just equate natural fetility and children with diseases, it puts children, health and life on a rung of ladder even lower than disease.

Lauren said...

I think you're making some sweeping generalizations to say that using a condom (or other barrier method) "avoids self control, respect for the gift of fertility, communication, and mutual cooperation." I think that's an assertion you can't prove.

Anonymous said...


It's impossible to have any sort of discussion on this subject without speaking in somewhat genenral terms because no one knows the specifics of a couples motives and individual circumstances, nor should they attempt to.

In terms of contraceptive methods,
the foundation of NFP is a mutual, procreative, respectful marital relationship. It requires an agreement to periodic abstinence in order to postpone or avoid pregnancy when couples conclude there is serious reason to do so.

Barriers are just that; barriers. They exist so people can have sex and avoid the potential consequences of sex. NFP requires NOT having sex to avoid the potential consequences of sex.

I am NOT passing moral judgement on the quality of anyone's marriage. I am simply highlighting what's different about NFP as a method because Jeremy said he couldn't see the difference between the two.

Is that more clear?


Jeremy said...

Then I will strive to be patient. I'm sure it will be an interesting discussion.

Suffice it to say (since my question will be addressed more fully later) that if there is no moral difference between barrier methods and NFP then one has the freedom to choose between them.

Lauren said...

Thank you for your post; however, it seems as though you make a distinction without a difference.

jconner said...


Just like you, I am new to blogging and I'm really enjoying it. Also, like you, I would like to see this discussion as orderly as possible for the benefit of everyone who participates.

It seems in this discussion we've strayed from discussing point 1 to point three. Would it be helpful to have three separate threads (or whatever you call them) for the three different items to be discussed?


Anonymous said...


I don't understand your last post. But maybe we should wait for the moderator to give us direction as to when and where we should continue this discussion.


Pr. David Rufner said...

John and Tina,
Might I suggest that one of you start a LutheransAndContraception yahoo group. We could use it on the side for articles, files, etc.