“Does The Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?” This is the title of a provocative new pamphlet by evangelist Randy Alcorn. Alcorn, an ordained minister, is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries in Gresham, Oregon.

Alcorn relates that when he started research on whether the Pill can cause abortions, he wanted the answer to be “no.” He confesses: “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.”

While many pro-lifers still cling to that belief, Alcorn is now persuaded that they are tragically mistaken. He bases this conclusion on an extensive review of the latest scientific information available in medical textbooks and peer-reviewed periodicals, all carefully footnoted. “I want the reader to be able to do what I did,” he says. “Hunt down every original source you can and see it for yourself.”

Created by God

The essence of Alcorn’s argument is straightforward. He begins with a major premise, the truth of which is familiar to readers of The Interim: “Each human being is created by God at the point of conception.”

A contraceptive, strictly defined, is any agent that prevents the joining of an egg and sperm, while an abortifacient is any agent that kills a human being at any time after conception. When properly used, the Pill usually, but not always, prevents conception. Even the Pill manufacturers concede in their literature that anywhere from three to five per cent of women on the Pill end up getting pregnant within a year.

To survive, an developing human being must become implanted in the lining of the uterus—the endometrium—within six or seven days after conception. There is general agreement among medical experts that use of the Pill creates a “hostile endometrium” that is less vascular, less glandular, and thinner.

This brings us to the crux of the matter: When the Pill fails to prevent conception, what happens to the resulting human beings? Alcorn concludes that some are bound to die because the mother’s hostile endometrium inhibits implantation. It follows that in these cases, the Pill acts as an abortifacient—it kills a living human being in the womb. Alcorn estimates that the annual death toll in the United States alone could run into tens, if not hundreds, of thousands.

This conclusion was hotly contested in a statement released in January of this year by a group of 20 pro-life physicians, including a number of professors in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. These doctors maintain that “the ‘hormonal contraception is abortifacient’ theory is not established scientific fact.”

In particular, they argue that there is no proof that normal use of the Pill results in an endometrium so hostile as to prevent implantation.

Alcorn, to his credit, has published this critical statment on his web site (http://www.epm.org?~ralcorn), together with a persuasive rebuttal.

While the experts argue, the upshot of the debate for conscientious pro-lifers is inescapable: Anyone wishing to practise safe and effective birth control without risking abortion has only one option—natural family planning.