I hear that during his confirmation hearing, Brett Kavanaugh referred to birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs.” Does birth control cause abortion?

When asked about his dissent in the Priests for Life case, Brett Kavanaugh said that by filling out a form the employer did not want to be “complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs.” This rhetoric, conflating contraception and abortion, is used by anti-choice activists to intentionally confuse the issue.

Simply put – no, birth control is not an abortion-inducing drug. Pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg is implanted in the wall of a person’s uterus. Different methods of contraception work in different ways, but they all prevent pregnancy.  

For example, the combination hormonal pill (“the Pill”) uses estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus. By preventing ovulation, there is no egg released from the ovaries to be fertilized. Furthermore, the thickening of the cervical mucus makes it hard for the sperm to enter the uterus and reach an egg. Through both of these mechanisms, fertilization is prevented and pregnancy never occurs.

Hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) work similarly to the pill while the copper IUD kills sperm before they can reach the egg. Even emergency contraception, commonly referred to as the “morning-after pill,” acts by preventing pregnancy, not ending a pregnancy that has already begun.

Kavanaugh’s reference to contraceptive methods as “abortion-inducing” reflects the non-scientific rhetoric of anti-choice activists rather than the real way that contraceptive drugs and devices work.

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