The Supreme Court’s decision to hear two cases about the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate is likely to popularize a word many Americans have never heard before: abortifacients.
The word has been around since the mid-19th century but recently it has become completely politicized — as everything involving a woman’s reproductive system has — as conservative Christians have sought to classify emergency contraception like Plan B and the “morning after” pill as drugs that cause abortion.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently told the Values Voters Summit that the federal government is coming after Christian organizations, “saying they have to provide abortifacients.”
The Green family, who owns two of the businesses represented in the contraception case the nation’s highest court will hear next year, aren’t Catholics who oppose all birth control. They are fundamentalist Christians who believe the mandate that all health insurance provided by private companies must include coverage of Plan B and the “morning after” pill violates their religious beliefs. And that belief is, apparently, that emergency contraception is an abortifacient.
It’s a belief they hold so fervently that they were willing to risk over a million dollars in fines to stick to it.
Like many articles of faith, this assertion has little to no science to back it up.
“Morning-after pills do not end a pregnancy that has implanted,” reports the Mayo Clinic. “Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, morning-after pills may act by one or more of the following actions: delaying or preventing ovulation, blocking fertilization, or keeping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.”
The owners of Hobby Lobby agree with the technical assertion of what the pills do. They’re simply arguing that preventing a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman’s womb is an act of abortion. Their argument is that life begins at fertilization. It’s an argument backed up by medical organizations — that all seem to have the words “pro-life” or “Christian” in their names.
If you make that argument, it’s not hard to make the leap that anything that prevents fertilization is abortion — as regular birth control does. As does menstruation.
Princeton University’s The Emergency Contraception Website states categorically that fertilization and pregnancy are not the same:
Emergency contraceptive pills work before pregnancy begins. According to leading medical authorities – such as the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of a woman’s uterus. Implantation begins five to seven days after sperm fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later. Emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant.
By preventing an egg that was fertilized unintentionally from becoming a pregnancy, emergency contraception prevents unintended pregnancies.
What Hobby Lobby is asking for is the right to deny its employees coverage of prescription medications that would avoid abortions.
Let’s see if the media points that out.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr