The “morning-after” birth control pill prevents ovulation; it does not cause abortion of an embryo. This is the news, this morning, in a New York Times editorial : How Morning-After Pills Really Work. This fact removes one of the final blocks to access (other than cost, a problem in some cases) to a significant advance in birth control pharmacology, that block being the presumption that the pill was killing something. As the editorial points out, this belief was never more than speculation, and in fact there is NO evidence for it whatsoever.
To the contrary, as another recent article in the Times points out, “Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb…” What they do establish is that medications like “Plan B”, the most widely known “morning after pill”, delay ovulation, which essentially places a time barrier between sperm and egg. This works because, contrary to common belief, sperm and egg to do not unit at time of intercourse, but rather days later. Sperm require time to travel and position themselves, and will die in a mere few days if no egg is available to act upon.
Such a “time barrier” will still be objectionable to those conservatives who believe that all interference with what they stipulate to be the sole legitimate purpose of sex – reproduction – is immoral. I find such objections to be unreasonably arbitrary. They are made primarily by men who want to control the behavior of women.
I was a young man when the birth control pill for women became easily available. It appeared revolutionary at the time, and that appearance has been confirmed over the years. Rejection of the pill as “immoral” seemed presumptive and poorly argued at the time, and that, to me, has not changed either, with the passage of time.
The world does not need more babies, much as I love them. Nor does it need more pregnancies – which, after all, have enormous physical, financial, and social implications in each and every case. I sometimes think that the solution to human beings who think and breed like rabbits might be to provide them with a lifetime supply of rabbit feed, and a large, solitary cage. (OK, that’s absurd…but something needs to be done about the thoughtless, or witless, who just keep having large families without regard for the implications of their act.)
It’s worth recalling that the birth control movement came about because of the problem of poor women having babies they could not afford. Women were dying, from pregnancies they didn’t want which went bad, and from dangerous attempts at inducing abortions. Where affordable birth control is not available, this is still happening. I’ve never heard cultural conservatives express moral outrage about that, sadly – nor about the unfairness of being born female and being compelled by biology to become pregnant as a result of acting on ones sexuality.
There are two arguments in favor of birth control (and more in support of the birth control pill, which in some cases has clear medical benefits not at all related to birth control): one has to do with moderating human breeding, and the other with empowering women relative to whether or not they become pregnant. Both are critical considerations, but today, for me, I’m impressed mostly by the latter. Pregnancies impact women far, far more than they do men. Women should be the decision makers regarding whether or not they become pregnant.
We now need to see that “Plan B” type birth control becomes available to all who want it.