This is a sensitive area of discussion, but I'm willing to take the plunge! I hope I do not offend anyone - that is not my intent. My intent is to inform, to encourage your own research (don't just take my word for it!) and to decide what to do with this information (remember - doing nothing is also a decision). I have issued the challenge - are you prepared to take it?
Virtually everyone I have spoken to IRL has not been aware of this - for some reason this news is just not getting out. So, I'm doing my part to spread the word!
So, I'm going to start by providing facts, then I will provide links to some research I have done, and then I will state my opinions - I bet you can't wait for that part! :)
The fact - one of the ways the birth control pill works is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Assuming you believe that life begins at conception (as most Christians do) - this is a chemically induced abortion - a fertilized egg is a baby.
The pill works in 3 ways
1) The main way it works is by preventing ovulation. No ovulation = no possibility of pregnancy and therefore, no ethical dilemma. However, this is not 100% effective. Especially nowadays with the lower dosage pills being common, this is not anywhere close to 100% effective - which means the other 2 mechanisms often come in to play.
2) The second way it works is by changing the cervical mucous to prevent sperm from reaching an egg should ovulation occur. This too, is totally fine. Preventing fertilization is not wrong. However, this mechanism is also not always effective. This is when the other mechanism comes into play.
3) The 3rd way it works is by thinning the lining of the uterus so that should fertilization occur, it would make it much more difficult for the five to seven day old baby to attach to the lining in order to receive the nourishment needed to grow. If the baby cannot successful implant, the baby will die and be expelled from the body during menstruation - this is called a chemical abortion.
Assuming that life begins at conception, this is a serious ethical problem.
So, that's it in a nutshell. This is also true with IUDs, Depo-Provera and Norplant (in fact in some of those the abortifacient effect is it's main mechanism)
Here is some research...
The most comprehensive and detailed research I've found was done by Randy Alcorn who actually set out to prove that the pill did NOT work in this way. If you click on this link you can find Randy's article (I think it's broken down into 9 parts) as well as a host of other articles on the topic. Randy Alcorn interviewed everyone from the pill manufacturers, their pharmacists and physicians as well as numerous other medical texts and references.
Here's a few quotes from his article....
On March 24, 1997, I had a lengthy and enlightening talk with Richard Hill, a pharmacist who works for Ortho-McNeil's product information department. (Ortho-McNeil and Searle are the largest birth control pill manufacturers.)And how often does this third mechanism come into play? IOW, how many chemical abortions are there every year from the pill? The answer will likely astound you. First to have something to compare to - there are approx 1.5 million abortions a year in the US. (not chemical abortions, "regular" surgical abortions where there is deliberate termination of a known pregnancy). It is impossible, of course, to give an exact number of how many chemical abortions happen due to taking the pill (it could be done, but the tests have not been performed) - however it is possible to scientifically predict the numbers. The numbers are shockingly high - between 834,000 and 4.17 million chemical abortions every year. See this article for details on how these numbers were calculated.
I then asked Hill if he was certain the Pill made implantation less likely. "Oh, yes," he replied. I said, "So you don't think this is just a theoretical effect of the Pill?" He said the following, as I took detailed notes:
Oh, no, it's not theoretical. It's observable. We know what an endometrium looks like when it's richest and most receptive to the fertilized egg. When a woman is taking the Pill you can clearly see the difference, based both on gross appearance -- as seen with the naked eye -- and under a microscope. At the time when the endometrium would normally accept a fertilized egg, if a woman is taking the Pill it is much less likely to do so.
I asked Hill one more time, "So you're saying this is an actual effect that happens, not just a theoretical one?" He said, "Sure -- you can actually see what it does to the endometrium and it's obvious it makes implantation less likely. The only thing that's theoretical is the numbers, because we just don't know that." (emphasis mine)
There are numerous other sites that state that this is how the pill works - everything from non-Christian organizations like Planned Parenthood (who recently revised their website to make it appear more theoretical), to Christian organizations like Crisis Pregnancy centre. All you have to do is google "abortifacient effect birth control pill" and tons of links will show up.
Here are a few more links for you....
Growing Debate About the Abortifacient Effect of the Birth Control Pill and the Principle of the Double Effect - written by Walter Larimore, MD (formerly on staff with Focus on the Family)
The Birth Control Pill Documentary: 28 Days on the Pill
Resources for 28 Days on the Pill - a huge list of resources used by the documentary
LifeSiteNews article - pro-abortion advocates confirm the pill prevents implantation of embryos
Review of Randy Alcorn's research book
"Birth Control" Pills Cause Early Abortions - article by Prolife America
In your own research, don't just ask you doctor and accept a quick "oh no, it's not an abortifacient" and think you've done your duty, even if your doctor is a Christian.
First of all, not all doctors are aware of this effect of the pill (Dr Walter Larimore was unaware of this effect, and it took a lot of his own time and research to convince him of it's reality). If they dismiss your concerns, tell them about this research and ask them to perform their own and that you'd like to discuss it again.
Secondly, not all doctors define life as beginning at fertilization (especially non-Christian doctors). Some define life as beginning at implantation in which case they obviously would not consider the pill abortifacient.
Frankly, I've been amazed and disappointed at the apathetic response I've gotten from many of the people I've talked to about this affect of the pill. The only reason I can think is that they feel like if they don't research it themselves they don't have to act on the information. After all, the pill is a super convenient method of birth control. Unfortunately it is birth control, and not conception control. Another reason for the "head in the sand" response is the desire for it not to be true. Believe me - I understand that desire. We used the pill for 5 yrs, completely unaware of this affect. And it grieves me to think that I may have unknowingly caused the death of a child. But, how much more wrong would it be to continue to use it blindly, after knowing about the possibility of chemical abortion?
One thing I want to mention. There are many women that need to take the pill for medical reasons - having nothing to do with conception. I don't see an ethical problem with this provided that an additional, alternative method of true conception control is used to negate the abortifacient effect of the pill.
So, what to use instead?
When done correctly, Natural Family Planning or NFP (NOT the rhythm method) is even more effective than the pill. It does take work, and you need to educate yourself in order to do it correctly, but it's effective - over 99% effective!
Other options include barrier methods, spermicide, etc. And of course, for the truly paranoid, more than one option can be used at the same time! :)
So, my encouragement to you (should you believe in life at conception), is to cease using the pill (or use it in combination with another method) and research it yourself. I'm sure you will find that the risk is simply too high - especially when alternative methods of conception control are available that work and that have NO risk of causing an abortion. I know some of the other methods are not as convenient, but is convenience a valid reason to risk a life?
I highly encourage you to read Randy Alcorn's book (available for free download in its entirety here).
If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer any that I possibly can. Please feel free to forward this to everyone you know. The word needs to get out. As in any medical situation, people need to be informed - especially since lives are literally at stake.