Some contraception preventatives can cause an early abortion.

Advocates of contraception claim it doesn’t cause abortions. However, that claim rests

Serene woman sitting in sunny field

on an inaccurate redefinition of “pregnancy” as beginning only after an embryo successfully implants in the mother’s uterus. This, then, excludes from the meaning of abortion all pills and devices that cause the death of an embryo before implantation. Yet it’s scientifically indisputable that a new human life begins when an embryo first forms at fertilization—6 to 8 days before implantation.

Physical Risks for Women

Contraception also presents significant health risks for women. Combined oral contraceptives (COCs), as well as contraceptive patches and the “ring,” have long been known to cause cancer (of the breast, cervix, and liver).2 They also substantially increase the risk of potentially life-threatening blood clots,3 which have resulted in heart attacks, strokes, and hundreds of deaths in healthy young women.

From Pill to Poverty

Without the contraceptive pill, the sexual revolution couldn’t have happened. Few women were willing to risk pregnancy outside of marriage. Economist George Akerlof has shown how that dynamic abruptly changed with the contraceptive pill, leading to “the feminization of poverty.”5

Told that the pill would prevent pregnancy, women had sex without the promise of marriage. Because women controlled the decision to contracept, give birth, or undergo abortion, however, many men reasoned that they were not responsible for children conceived outside marriage.

What Does Our Catholic Faith Offer?

God’s love is generous, sacrificial, life-giving, and forever. As humans made in God’s image, we are called to imitate the eternal giving and receiving of love that is the Holy Trinity. We can do this in a unique way through marriage—a vowed communion of a man and a woman who enter a “one flesh” union open to bringing forth a new human life. “The whole meaning of marriage is present and signified”9 in each act of marital sex, so the love-giving and life-giving purposes of sex should not be separated.

At the same time, for serious reasons, in exercising responsible parenthood, a couple may “decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”10 In these cases, “the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile.”11

Thanks to the research of countless doctors and scientists, modern, fertility awareness-based methods of natural family planning rival and even surpass 12 the effectiveness of contraceptives while posing no risks to mothers or unborn children. In fact, couples using such methods report better sex, improved communication, and the ability to identify underlying causes of infertility.13 (To learn more, visit

In short, through the Church’s teaching, God invites us to a fuller, richer, deeper way of life and love.

Used with permission – Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.

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[2] V.J. Cogliano et al., “Preventable exposures associated with human cancers,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 103 (2011) 1827-1839, 1831; available at . . ; accessed April 21, 2018.

[3] A. van Hylckama Vlieg et al., “The venous thrombotic risk of oral contraceptives, effects of oestrogen dose and progestogen type: results of the MEGA case-controlled study,” British Medical Journal 339 (2009) b.2921; available at . . ; accessed April 21, 2018.

[5] G.A. Akerlof et al., “An analysis of out-of-wedlock child-bearing in the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 111:2 (1996): 277-317.

[9] “Life Matters: Love and Marriage,” Respect Life Program, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Washington, D.C.), 2011, available at, accessed April 21, 2018.

[10] Paul VI, Humanae vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1968), no. 10. See also Natural Family Planning Program, “Responsible Parenthood,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, available at; accessed April 21, 2018.

[11]Ibid., no 16.

[12] The website of Facts About Fertility has up-to-date facts on fertility and the fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. The Medical Update ( . . ) shows the pregnancy rates of 7 methods; accessed April 21, 2018; R. Fehring and M. Schneider, “Extended effectiveness of an online Natural Family Planning service program.”  MCN The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing 42 (2017) 43-49; M. Manhart et al., “Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning: A review of effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy using SORT,” Osteopathic Family Physician 5 (2013) 2-8; available at . . ; accessed April 21, 2018; R. Fehring et al. “Randomized comparison of two Internet-supported fertility awareness-based methods of family planning” Contraception 88 (2013) 24-30.

[13] J.T. Bruchalski, MD, “Hope for Married Couples who Want to Have a Child,” USCCB Respect Life Program (2010);; F. Doyle, “My Slogan: Practice Saved Sex!”;

Excerpts from Humanae vitae, © 1968 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.

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