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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

IUDs as "abortifacients"

The doctor at one point is asked about IUDs being abortifacients.  She says they aren't -- they work by blocking fertilization. Rachel Maddow underlined the point, ridiculing a candidate who suggested otherwise. So, why is that argument out there?  Doesn't know.  Would like to know that myself, since it is something I too heard.  Did a quick search ("iud abortifacient") and came to an article about Hobby Lobby:
ACOG [American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] representatives told me in an email that copper IUDs mostly work before implantation occurs—copper is toxic to sperm and kills it before it gets to the egg.

But the copper IUD can also be used as emergency contraception if it’s inserted up to five days after unprotected sex (and then simply left in to serve as longer-term birth control). And when used in that way, the copper-laden environment might also prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. It might. We just don’t know.
Why doesn't the doctor chosen as an expert at least know of this? I am not an expert but somewhat aware of the basics and know of the argument at least.  Now, perhaps, especially with the most up to date studies, the chance of the fertilized egg -- a person to some members of the anti-choice crowd -- actually being stopped is about nil. Some fact sheets don't cite the possibility.  Plus, naturally, fertilized eggs already are disposed of, and natural miscarriages occur regularly.  Realize this is "natural" but we don't seem to care about it as we care about "natural" harm to born humans and the like. And, Maddow et. al. clearly doesn't think the fertilized egg is a person anyway,* and if that was a problem, some run of the mill birth control pills might be an issue too. But, you have to at least be aware of something some Atlantic writer managed to know about, right?** 

The tiny chance an IUD might stop a fertilized egg doesn't warrant making it illegal or preventing a person to have the right to use her own money to buy one.  Nor stopping programs that might in some fashion involve state funds that help reduce teen pregnancies and "abortions" as the term normally is used that include IUDs.  But, it doesn't help too much to hand-wave the problem away in an uneducated fashion either.  Those in the "reality based community" have an obligation to be informed.  Talking past people and not being aware of not really mysterious things like the IUD thing hurts in the long run.

Realize the small chance it might happen etc. makes it seem trivial or dishonestly applied (as I have noted religious exemption claims are in this context) but still.


* An article on the controversy underlines how definitional terms result in talking past each other:
Dr. Daniel Grossman, an ob/gyn who does reproductive research and who practices in San Francisco, said the definition of a pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg is an established scientific standard. He said IUDs are not abortifacient.
But, if you think life begins at conception, implantation is not necessary here.  The "abortion" of a fertilized egg would be enough.  As noted, such extremism leads you some places few truly wish to go. The average person just doesn't use "abortion" in this way. The language is thus misleading.  Face up to that.  Don't just talk past each other.

** Justice Stevens once noted that a "personhood" type amendment might interfere with the right to birth control such as morning after pills and IUDs.  He at one point quotes that the IUD "works primarily by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting." 

The pro-choice advocate did not disagree. He said at one point: "The most common forms of what we generically in common parlance call contraception today, IUDs, low dose birth control pills which are the safest type of birth control pills available, act as abortifacients." 

Perhaps, the state of knowledge is such now that we know they don't act that way, and again Stevens' phrasing might be argued not to count given an "abortion" requires implantation. But, it's not some big mystery why the labeling is out there.  The rub is how you respond to it. 

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