The overlooked science of the Hobby Lobby case: Contraceptives vs. Abortifacients

September 27, 2014

Abortion, Contraception, Women's Health

Ella Emergency Contraception

Are corporations entitled to their own unscientific definitions of medical terminology?

In the Hobby Lobby case, many overlooked the medical science of the contraceptives that were in question.

First we need to recognize that Hobby Lobby does indeed cover 16 of the 20 methods of contraception mandated under the Affordable Care Act. The remaining 4 are:

  • Plan B One-Step
  • Ella (another FDA approved brand of emergency contraception)
  • Two forms of IUDs (Intrauterine Devices)

Hobby Lobby labeled these forms of contraception as “abortifacients,” meaning that they induce abortion, or terminate pregnancy.

Regardless of religious freedom, medical science does not recognize these forms of contraception as causing abortion.

Looking at the National Institutes of Health’s website offers the following: (Source)

  1. According to recent medical studies, Plan B and Ella delay ovulation, preventing fertilization.
  2. Hormonal IUDs thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, also preventing fertilization.

The Mayo Clinic’s website confirms these views.

In other words, there clearly is a more important debate being ignored here. Are corporations entitled to their own definitions of medical and scientific terminology?

When individuals and corporations are allowed to redefine vocabulary based on inaccurate information, we lose the ability to have a meaningful debate.

Hobby Lobby supporters might argue that there is a chance that morning-after emergency contraception can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, here’s why “life begins at conception” is on very shaky medical and legal ground.

  1. Medical science’s definition says that pregnancy begins after implantation. Abortifacients are drugs that end a pregnancy. Contraception does not end a pregnancy, and so contraception is not the same as abortion.
  2. Around 50% of all fertilized eggs naturally do not implant. Fertilization of an egg in no way guarantees a pregnancy that results in live birth. (Source)
  3. Successful implantation can take 6 to 12 days. (Source)
  4. Are we going to charge countless women with infanticide/manslaughter/murder constantly for natural processes and contraceptive usage? (Consider this case.)

This misunderstanding of contraception comes partly from the Food and Drug Administration’s controversial decision to include the possibility on the label, despite a lack of scientific proof. (Source)

While religious freedom is itself a fascinating subject, let’s reconsider what issues we should be focusing on.

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About jslachman381

I'm a Yale graduate who majored in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health.

View all posts by jslachman381


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2 Comments on “The overlooked science of the Hobby Lobby case: Contraceptives vs. Abortifacients”

  1. DAL Says:

    Thank you for detailing the science behind contraceptives with the supporting links
    Very helpful and well written.
    I wish more individuals would actually take the time to research and acknowledge the facts

    You have posed some very interesting questions .
    Some of the issues and questions you raise may become a reality if our Senate changes power
    Thank You




  1. Republican politician says the IUD is an “abortifacient,” but science doesn’t support him. | "I'm not a scientist, but…" - November 4, 2014

    […] Remember that this is the same birth control that Hobby Lobby misleadingly claimed caused abortion. […]


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