Right On Life

Christian, Pro-Life, Conservative

Implications of Personhood from Conception 3 of 3: Will a Personhood Amendment Outlaw “The Pill”?

Picture of Expectant Mother

When does pregnancy begin?

In this series, we looked at the implications of personhood on miscarriage and birth control pills. We ended the prior post with the observation that one hormonal birth control, namely NuvaRing, “is … approved for the prevention of pregnancy in women” and asked, “What is pregnancy?” In this final post of the series, we begin with that question.


The Guttmacher Institute offers these almost-definitions
of pregnancy:

“According to both the scientific community and long-standing federal policy, a woman is considered pregnant only when a fertilized egg has implanted in the wall of her uterus”

“…, on the separate but closely related question of when a woman is considered pregnant, the medical community has long been clear: Pregnancy is established when a fertilized egg has been implanted in the wall of a woman’s uterus.”

“medical experts—notably the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)—agree that the establishment of a pregnancy takes several days and is not completed until a fertilized egg is implanted in the lining of the woman’s uterus. … A pregnancy is considered to be established only when the process of implantation is complete.”

I want to know what pregnancy is and I am told that “pregnancy is established when …” and “the establishment of a pregnancy takes several days and is not completed until … implantation is complete”. It seems that the ACOG thinks it is possible to be partly pregnant despite the long standing popular notion to the contrary. Actually, though, the ACOG implicitly grants that pregnancy begins with fertilization. They try to confuse a fully established pregnancy with pregnancy itself; but, through the smoke and mirrors, we can see that, indeed, pregnancy still begins before its establishment is complete.

The second thing that the smoke and mirrors fails to completely hide is that some of the members of the medical and scientific community are trying to give long-standing terms new, critically-altered definitions. Why should they do this? Because the definition of pregnancy and conception have serious implications in law, regulation, and funding. In Guttmacher Institutes words,

“The differences may be more than academic. Debates over emergency contraception have put the question on center stage, with potentially serious implications” and “The definition is critical to distinguishing between a contraceptive that prevents pregnancy and an abortifacient that terminates it”.

Guttmacher defends this definition by implying that it is long-standing:

“And on this point, federal policy has long been both consistent and in accord with the scientists: Drugs and devices that act before implantation prevent, rather than terminate, pregnancy.”

Later, we get a glimpse into what long-standing means to Guttmacher:

“Although widespread, definitions that seek to establish fertilization as the beginning of pregnancy go against the long-standing view of the medical profession and decades of federal policy”

“Since the 1970s, the Department of Health and Human Services has had an official definition of pregnancy for purposes of establishing certain safeguards when federally funded research involves pregnant women.”

There are three big reasons that this “medical”, “scientific”, and “official” definition hardly fazes me. First, in the course of history, these “decades”–the scant few decades from the 70’s–hardly overwhelm the truly long-standing use–for millennia–of the term conception to refer to the beginning of a person’s existence. Second, when scientists give a new definition to a term borrowed from common usage, they do not thereby alter the common nor the historic meaning. Third, as I already pointed out, when these folks state “that the establishment of a pregnancy takes several days and is not completed until a fertilized egg is implanted”, they implicitly grant that pregnancy begins prior to implantation.


What then, in my view, would be the impact on hormonal contraceptives of personhood-from-conception laws?

  1. Drugs that are designed to destroy an unborn person by inducing miscarriage, that is, drugs that are labeled for inhibiting endometrium, would likely be outlawed.
  2. Drugs that serve a different purpose but have an unintended possible abortifacient side-effect might still be licensed but have appropriate warning label. (We already have drugs that have risky side effects.)
  3. Contraceptives indicated for “prevention of conception” (fertilization) would not be affected. The indication “for prevention of pregnancy” would be permitted if actually for “prevention of conception”; drugs actually intended for “inducement of abortion” would not be permitted.
  4. Physicians who intentionally prescribe a drug contrary to approved indications would be liable for malpractice or various civil or criminal charges. (This would be a specific application of similar legal responsibilities that we currently have.)
  5. Others who contribute to the death of unborn persons would be liable for civil damages or criminal charge in much the same way that they would be now if the mother-to-be wants the child.


A justly written personhood amendment should ultimately outlaw all abortions  including both the intentionally induced “miscarriages” of the hormonal birth control pill and the blatant infanticide of the partial birth abortion.

That is what pro-lifers are trying to accomplish: to protect the lives of innocent unborn children.

24th November 2011 3:03 AM - Posted by | Abortion, Pro-Life Legislation | , , , , , , ,


  1. Good distinctions, thanks! I appreciate all you are doing to advance the pro-life message here.

    Comment by Neil | 24th November 2011 10:34 AM | Reply

  2. Thank you. In the immediate context, we are swimming against the current.

    Comment by Christopher Levi | 25th November 2011 5:25 AM | Reply

  3. […] public, advocates of personhood bills deny they’d ban the Pill. But among themselves they sound more like this: A justly written personhood amendment should ultimately outlaw all […]

    Pingback by Paul Ryan: Veteran of the War on Women « The Weekly Sift | 20th August 2012 8:01 AM | Reply

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