Does Birth Control Prevent Abortion?

This article by Stephanie Gray first appeared in the September issue of LifeCanada's Reflections Magazine.


In the Spring of 2004, I went to the University of Manitoba to help its pro-life student club display an abortion exhibit.  A Buddhist student approached me and said she was “pro-choice” and was concerned that there was no one at the display expressing the opposite perspective to ours.  After a brief discussion she left, but returned an hour later with a friend.  I was struck by their response: They did not hold signs with “pro-choice” slogans, saying our anti-abortion message was wrong; instead, they distributed condoms to passersby.  More protestors came throughout the day and handed out literature about various forms of birth control.

If you were to ask these students why they were protesting an anti-abortion message with a pro-birth control message instead of a pro-abortion message, they would say something like this: “We don’t like abortion.  We think the best way to avoid abortion is to avoid the need for it.  If people don’t have unwanted pregnancies, they won’t have abortions.  Birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies, so birth control prevents abortion.”

But does it?

While birth control is considered to prevent pregnancy, some methods may actually work after pregnancy has begun—thus being capable of ending the life of a tiny human being.  Take the birth control pill: most assume it is a contraceptive (i.e., works contra, against, conception); however, when asked about how birth control pills work, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state in part, “The lining of the uterus thins, making it less likely that a fertilized egg can attach to it.”[1]  The “fertilized egg” is actually an embryonic human and if that child cannot attach to her mother’s uterus, that child will bleed out in an early, and undetected, abortion. 

So while the birth control pill may prevent some “unwanted” pregnancies (by suppressing ovulation), it may actually end others (by the mechanism described above).  But even if the birth control pill never had the mechanism to affect the pre-born child’s ability to implant, even if it was truly contraceptive, does it prevent abortion overall?

Decades of birth control pill and abortion usage gives us a clear answer: No.  All the while birth control has been on the rise for decades, abortion has been too.  This actually shouldn’t be surprising because birth control was created to divorce babies from sex and abortion does the same.  So while the means of the two can be different (prevent a baby from existing versus ending the life of a baby who exists), the end result is the same (sex without babies).

The connection between birth control and abortion can even be seen in the timelines of their entrance into modern culture: In 1960 in the United States, the birth control pill was approved for contraceptive use.[2]  Nine years later in Canada the Trudeau government made it legal to disseminate, sell and advertise birth control products.[3]  That same year in Canada, legal abortion made its way into the country, and just three years later the same happened in America.  With there being over 1 million abortions annually in the US[4] and approximately 100,000 abortions annually in Canada[5], all alongside widespread birth control usage, it is simply wrong to conclude birth control prevents abortion.

If anything, birth control actually creates an environment for abortion.  Indeed, even the pro-abortion organization Guttmacher Institute admits, “Fifty-one percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method in the month they got pregnant…”[6]

That statistic is backed up in the mentality of many who think birth control usage actually gives people license for abortion access.  Consider a pro-abortion pre-law student who said the following to me at a pro-life exhibit:

“If someone used several methods of contraception then they shouldn't be forced to keep a child in their uterus.  If my body is like a house, use of contraception is like locking your doors.  And if someone breaks into your house when your doors are locked, it's not your fault and you can kick them out.  Maybe if someone didn't use contraception abortion would not be reasonable (analogous to keeping your doors open and inviting someone in, a degree of negligence in a way), but with the presence of contraception, I'm putting up a 'keep off my property' sign.”

One could actually use this student’s own illustration to rebut her point, saying that because no birth control is 100% effective, using birth control is like putting up a “keep off my property” sign a certain percentage of the time, but for the other percentage (i.e., failure rate), it is like putting up a “come on in” welcome sign. 

More fundamentally, though, her point shows that birth control usage and abortion are fruits from the same tree: they are connected in that both attack the bond between sex and new life.  In the minds of many in our culture, when birth control fails to adequately keep life separated from sex, abortion is a reasonable follow up.  That is why birth control will not prevent abortion.

[1] “Frequently Asked Questions: Contraception,” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Accessed July 30, 2015.

[2] “A brief history of the birth control pill,” Alexandra Nikolchev, Accessed July 30, 2015.

[3] “Triumph of the Pill: The Pill Turns 50,” John Allemang, Accessed July 30, 2015.

[4] “Fact Sheet: Induced Abortion in the United States,” Accessed July 30, 2015.

[5] “Annual Abortion Rates,” Accessed July 30, 2015.

[6] “Fact Sheet: Induced Abortion in the United States.”  This particular fact sources the following: Jones RK, Frohwirth L and Moore AM, More than poverty: disruptive events among women having abortions in the USA, Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 2012, 39(1):36–43.