The moral considerations of the contraceptive pill


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The moral considerations of the contraceptive pill

  1. 1. The Moral Considerations of the Contraceptive PillDalmain AshleyStudent ID: 500331493School of Medical Sciences, Bangor UniversityModule: Academic SkillsModule Tutor: Penny Dowdney
  2. 2. 2 The Moral Considerations of the Contraceptive Pill The contraceptive pill commonly known as ‘the pill’ has transformed the lives of many people around the world especially women, as it has enabled them to be elevated to the same playing field as men in the industrial world. The idea of the pill began with the Austrian Ludwig Haberlandt who is described as the father of the contraceptive pill. He carried out important hormonal contraception research on animals in the 1920’s and early 30’s (Haberlandt, Edda 2009). During the 1950’s pioneers such as Carl Djeerassi, Gregory Pincus and John Rock discovered the compounds needed to be used in present day pills. Since over 100 million women around the world use the pill, how healthy is this path of freedom in our society today? There are two types of hormones contained within the contraceptive pill: oestrogen and progestin, which interfere with the normal hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. The primary effect of the pill is suppression of ovulation whereby the egg (ovum) is not released from the ovarian follicle. Hence no implantation occurs on the endometrial lining of the uterus and no fertilisation. Secondary to this is the thickening of cervical mucus at the womb opening, which prevents sperm from fertilizing the ovum and this again prevents conception. In addition the cellular structure of the endometrial lining of the uterus changes to inhibit implantation of the fertilised egg. Therefore the egg is lost in the woman’s menses – more commonly known as a period. This effect does not necessarily prevent pregnancy but causes an abortion after one week of fertilisation (J.C. Willke MD 2010). Some people believe that because of this change of the uterus wall, the contraceptive acts as an abortifacient, which is a substance that induces an abortion. As the fertilised egg has no place to implant itself it doesn’t develop into an embryo and eventually to a baby, which to some people appears as a form of murdering a potential human being. However a chance of
  3. 3. 3 The Moral Considerations of the Contraceptive Pill ever getting pregnant whilst on the pill is only 9% (Trussell, James 2007) so chances of the pill acting as an abortifacient would be that or lower. It is a general view in science that pregnancy is the period after conception. The pill was designed to be a contraceptive hence preventing conception but since it can induce an abortion many pro-life activists have rallied against it, calling it an extreme form of birth control. However some people argue that if the pill was not around, then the rate of abortion would rise. For example the UK national archive states that according to data in 2007 there was an increase in abortions for under 18’s and that access to pills would hopefully prevent it. . Birth control can give a single woman or a couple the ability to control whether or not, they would want a child in a certain period of their lives. The pill therefore allows more women to focus more time on education and leaving marriage until later in life (Goldin, Claudia, and Lawrence Katz 2002). This is clear in the song called ‘The pill’ by Loretta Lynn in 1974 which told of a woman who found liberation from being a wife and mother through taking the pill. In opposition to this some people believe that the contraceptive pill has twisted the roles of a man and woman. David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, stated that ‘a generation of well-educated young women who cannot find a suitable match was fuelling the collapse of the family. Because more women than men were gaining degrees, women struggled to find a partner with good career prospects, and men were no longer given the opportunity to "bring home the bacon"’, which according to him was bad for families. As well as abortion the other moral consequence of the contraceptive pill is promiscuity which to some people raises the issue of separation of sex and marriage in society. They feel that the contraceptive creates an easier path to have intercourse outside marriage which
  4. 4. 4 The Moral Considerations of the Contraceptive Pill promotes the sense that immoral behaviour is less risky. If the use of contraception becomes socially accepted there becomes an illusion of risk free sex (John C. Wright 2012). This is reflected in 2008 where an international study suggested that British men and women were the most promiscuous in the west (Laura Donelly, the Telegraph, 2011). Earlier on in this year of 2012 the NHS reported that girls as young as 13 could be offered the contraceptive pill without needing a prescription. A controversy was sparked. Making these pills available to 13 year olds would surely induce a trend of under aged sex. One person to whom this issue definitely struck a chord with was Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship, who told the BBC: "There is no clear evidence from this study that it will reduce unplanned pregnancy and abortion and there is a real risk that, by encouraging more risk-taking behaviour, it could fuel the epidemic of sexually transmitted disease." In 2011 15 year old girls attending NHS clinics were more likely to opt for the oral contraceptive pill rather than the male condom. To some people this may seem as if girls are being subconsciously manipulated into having intercourse – a condom is issued in case of sex but when a pill is taken there is an expectation to do it. One of the risks associated with the contraceptive pill is stroke, a condition in which a person loses brain function. What the pill does is increase the risk of a blood clot forming in the brain. If that happens a stroke occurs. One such case occurred in October 2009 to a 15 year old, who one day came from school feeling dizzy and began vomiting up blood. She then suffered a stroke at home and was left confused with affected speech, sight and a numb left side of the body. Apart from that tragic event, contraceptive pills have been proven to reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by less than 1% per year of use. On the other hand pregnancy leads to a 40% reduction in ovarian cancer and subsequent breast-feeding further
  5. 5. 5 The Moral Considerations of the Contraceptive Pill reduces that. According to this a woman would have to be on the pill for at least forty years to have the same beneficial effects as having a baby. Women have to be on the pill for at least 21 days for it to have a proper effect in preventing conception. This raises the question of: how natural is it to take these pills? There is a belief that the contraceptive goes against natural law which is determined by nature (Strauss, Leo 1968). In the law, all things should achieve their natural end and certain actions can be contrary to that of an organism’s based on their effects. The natural end of sex is both love and life. Increasingly today in society these components are being removed from the equation. More people are taking intercourse for granted and having one night stands. As the pill prevents sex from reaching its natural end of life it brings detriment to the organism. However this argument is sketchy in the fact that other forms of contraceptive such as the condom can be seen as opposing natural law. Also, many women who are in a relationship would disagree with the natural law, saying that while loving their partners, the pill enables them to choose when they would want to be pregnant. Looking at the picture as a whole it is clear to see that the arguments against the contraceptive pill carry a significant weight compared to the arguments for. There is some speculation as to whether or not the pill actually works. In 2011 the number abortions in England and Wales were 189,931, 0.2% more than in 2010 (189,574) and 7.7% more than in 2001 (176,364) – an increase (Department of Health, 2012). Also In 2010 there were an estimated 909,245 conceptions in England and Wales, compared with 896,466 in 2009, an increase of 1.4 per cent (Office of National Statistics, 2012). So it hardly seems as if the pill actually works. The arguments of the pill having abortifacient effects and raising promiscuity are damning and really highlight how morally wrong the pill actually is in society. However
  6. 6. 6 The Moral Considerations of the Contraceptive Pill the sad story is that most people are not even aware of the evidence out there proving how lethal the contraceptive is to a population. The assumption for the future is this: the moral standards of generations to come will gradually decrease as there will be a lack of thought given to the consequences of their actions. This will lead to a rise in infection rates and hence the wasting of money to look after patients. It appears that it is not going to really be a bright future after all. References Haberlandt, Edda (2009). "Ludwig Haberlandt--A pioneer in hormonal contraception". Wien. Contraceptive Pill by J.C. Willke MD Trussell, James (2007). "Contraceptive Efficacy". In Hatcher, Robert A., et al.. Contraceptive Technology (19th rev. ed.). New York: Ardent Media. ISBN 0-9664902-0-7. Goldin, Claudia, and Lawrence Katz (2002). "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Womens Career and Marriage Decisions". Journal of Political Economy 110 (4): 730–770. doi:10.1086/340778. John C. Wright ‘Contra Contraception’ contraception-2/ The Telegraph ‘Abortion soars among women in 40s’ by Laura Donelly in-40s.html contraceptive-pill-for-girls-of-13-7681094.html Strauss, Leo (1968) "Natural Law" International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Macmillan) Department of Health, 2012, england-wales-2011/ Office of National Statistics, 2012, statistics--england-and-wales/2010/2010-conceptions-statistical-bulletin.html