Contraceptives versus abortifacients

Female Patient. 1990 Nov;15(11):13-4.


PIP: A less-publicized aspect of the famed Louisiana abortion bill would have outlawed the use of IUDs and oral contraceptives (OCs), a provision that ignores the difference between contraceptives and abortifacients. The bill, which was vetoed by Governor Buddy Roemer, stirred widespread controversy in its effort to sharply restrict abortion. Many of those involved in the discussion -- including the State Attorney General's office -- have contended that IUDs and OCs induce abortions by destroying fertilized eggs. But such statements disregard scientific studies that indicate that both contraceptive methods work by preventing fertilization. Research has shown that IUDs, especially copper-IUDs, restrict the transport of sperm, thereby preventing fertilization. One study revealed the presence of sperm in the fallopian tubes of non-IUD users 15-30 minutes after insemination, but found no sperm in the tubes of IUD users. Inhibiting ovulation, OCs work through a combination of estrogen and progestin. OCs prevent fertility by activating various mechanisms: they suppress the release of certain hormones, and cause a thickening of the cervical mucus which impairs sperm motility. Although neither IUDs nor OCs can be considered abortifacients, a small but vocal minority has succeeded in obscuring this fact. And it is the role of science to resolve the controversy by making the facts clear.

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents*
  • Abortion, Induced
  • Americas
  • Attitude
  • Behavior
  • Communication*
  • Contraception*
  • Contraceptives, Oral*
  • Developed Countries
  • Emotions*
  • Ethics*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Intrauterine Devices*
  • Legislation as Topic*
  • Louisiana
  • North America
  • Psychology
  • United States


  • Abortifacient Agents
  • Contraceptives, Oral