What women want: a monthly abortion pill?

Filed in Ethics by on October 1, 2013 0 Comments

source unknown, photo by swang CC

What women want is a question pored over and pondered by many women and men. Films, psychology journals, women’s magazines, politicians, the ‘bloke down the pub’, as well as scientists, have flirted with and failed to answer this elusive question.

So what is the latest thing that women are being told they will welcome, need and want? And have they got it right this time? The latest thing is a monthly contraceptive pill. Or, to be a little more accurate, a post-fertilisation pill, as some are calling it in the media, that can be taken up to a month following intercourse. However, to be entirely accurate, it can only be referred to as a monthly abortion pill, as scientists admit.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, and reported in the media recently, not only would it probably be possible to make such a pill, but women would welcome it, one reason being it would mean taking fewer pills.

I have to wonder, though, would women really welcome and want such a thing as this in order to reduce the number of pills they take?  Do women really want to regulate having children by having repeated early abortions, month after month, year after year? And even if they did want it, should this be something we permit? What of the health risks to women?  What of the sexual ethics of all this? And what of the ethics of this blind destruction of human life?

Taking the last question first, if a woman’s period is late, it indicates very likely that fertilisation has occurred and she is pregnant. For around two weeks her little baby has been silently going about his or her business of developing and growing, and is now doubling in size each day. The primitive streak has formed, gastrulation is occurring, and the baby has successfully nestled into the lining of the womb so as to secure his or her lifeline for the coming months. In one week’s time the heart will begin to beat.

The life of this irreplaceable human being has already begun. And every human life is precious, no matter how big or small. And any wilful disruption of this human life from its starting point –  fertilisation – to its natural end, is morally wrong, and the gravest failure of love.

As to health effects, little will be known in regards to this, but I hazard a guess there would be a few negative effects, including at the psychological level.

And what of the sexual ethics? Rolling out such a pill, no doubt as a monthly prescription, would be the total abdication of a man and a woman’s responsibility in sexual ethics: it would further encourage the attitude that you don’t have to give a second’s thought to when you have sex or with whom. And just as with contraceptives, the unitive aspect (the communion of being between the loving couple) and procreative aspect (being open to the possibility of new life) would wrongly be separated, when they are both intrinsic to the sexual act and belong together. And in addition to this, with this new pill, any pregnancy that does occur would be automatically destroyed without a moment’s thought (unless the woman chooses not to take a pill).

This last point signifies a radical change in mentality. Up to now, a woman has had to choose death, when life is the norm; but now death becomes the norm, and life becomes an exception to be chosen. Every sexual act is rendered destructive, when by its nature it is ordered to life – turning the natural order on its head.

How could any woman want this? How could any man want this for a woman (or his child)?

If only more women knew about non-contraceptive paths of fertility management such as the Creighton FertilityCare model, a way which unites a loving couple, and respects the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual union, and ensures that every life is created with the dignity due to him or her as a human being.

The introduction of a monthly abortion pill would sadly be the ultimate normalisation of abortion; perhaps an unsurprising step given that both contraception and abortion are now so firmly linked to taking pills and so deeply rooted in our society. But it leaves me with a hollow chill – certain that they’ve got it wrong; that this really is not what women will welcome, need nor want.


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Joanne Hill

About the Author ()

An experienced speaker on life and relationships issues, Joanne read physiology at the University of St Andrews, and studied philosophy under the French philosopher, Pere Marie-Dominique Philippe, OP. Subsequently specialising in bioethics, she gained a masters in bioethics from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, Rome, while working in education and media with the charity LIFE. She is currently developing her own bioethics project, Pierian Education.

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