Talk:Abortifacient/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

Plan B

I removed Plan B again: it is not among "the most prominent" medical abortifacients, indeed most pharmacologists wouldn't even classify it as one: normally it just prevents the egg from being fertilized, and even in the cases where it prevents the fertilized egg from attaching (if that even occurs, which is not clear), it doesn't end a "pregnancy" if the usual medical definition of pregnancy is used: beginning with the fertilized egg's attachment.

I will gladly revert myself if a pharmacologist reference can be found that classifies Plan B as an abortifacient. AxelBoldt 01:14, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

According to, Plan B does sometimes prevent the fertilized egg from attaching. Anyone who believes that human life begins at conception would therefore consider Plan B an abortifacient, or at least a potential abortifacient depending on whether it prevented conception or implantation. From that link: "Plan B is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation by altering the endometrium." Wesley 16:56, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

I've added it to the list of disputed abortifacients in the "pre-implantation labeling controversy" section MamaGeek  TALK  CONTRIB  16:05, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

Fertilization vs. implantation debate

I removed the following section, as the debate about when pregnancy starts is relevant to various discussions, including abortion, and people would not search for it under "abortifacient". This article should be about substances that induce abortion as medically defined and should direct the reader to the discussion about alternative definitions of abortion and pregnancy". So the material below needs to find a new home. AxelBoldt 21:45, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Any suggestions for the new home? It's been coming up on the oral contraceptive and emergency contraception pages with some regularity, then reverted as being off-topic. And the section was not new on this page (I just expanded, did not add it), so it's obviously come up here before, too. I had put the information here because at least this page is related to abortion (unlike the OCP and EC pages). Someone had suggested the pregnancy page, but I'm not sure that's the place for a 'debate' section. Lyrl 00:46, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
I disagree with its removal from the article. Listed in the section are all the birth control methods that many consider abortifacient based on their definition of life as beginning at conception. The title of the section and the opening paragraph are sufficient to point out the controversial nature of the information, but it definitely belongs in this article. MamaGeek  TALK  CONTRIB  12:46, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm putting back the bulk of the section. MamaGeek  TALK  CONTRIB  18:29, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
I think the issue is not when pregnancy starts, but rather when human life starts. This seems like an appropriate place for this material. Wesley 16:56, 6 June 2006 (UTC)
Well if that is the case, the material doesn't belong here. An abortifacient is a substance that ends a pregnancy (causes an abortion). An abortifacient is not a substance that simply ends human life. If a women isn't pregnant, then she cannot have an abortion (even if we grant that every single fertilized egg constitutes a "human life"). I stand by my propsal to create an article specifically on the beginning of pregnancy controversy, and then briefly mention the debate in appropriate articles.--Andrew c 17:07, 6 June 2006 (UTC)
The Wiki abortion article defines abortion such that any substance which causes the expulsion of a human embryo is causing an abortion. It doesn't matter when you believe that life begins. This is why I changed the opening paragraph of the section below in the actual Abortifacient article. MamaGeek  TALK  CONTRIB  17:13, 6 June 2006 (UTC)
Come now Andrew, you're playing word games. Yes, doctors debate the precise definition of "pregnancy". But if a zygote is indeed a human life, then something that kills it before implantation is surely an "abortifacient" by any reasonable definition of the term. If we define abortion as "ending a pregnancy" and then try to apply that definition word-for-word literally, then extracting a fertilized egg from the mother and nurturing it in a petri dish would have to be called a form of abortion, because it "ends a pregnancy". Indeed, live birth would be a form of abortion, as it "ends a pregnancy". While I agree that there are certainly times when we need to carefully define terms, you can't take a casual definition of a term and than try to apply it absolutely and literally. Clearly the definition of "abortifacient" depends on the definition of abortion. A more realistic definition of abortion would be something like "killing or destroying a pre-born baby". (Yes, "baby" is a non-technical term, and should be replaced with a technical term that encompasses fetus, embryo, and zygote, but if there's a word for that it's escaping me at the moment.) It seems to me that the question of when human life begins is crucial to the definition. I don't know anyone who would say that destroying an unfertilized egg is an "abortion". There is debate about the period between conception and implantation, and no serious discussion of the subject can ignore or avoid that debate. Jay3141 24 Feb 2010. —Preceding undated comment added 05:18, 24 February 2010 (UTC). defines pregnancy as "The state of carrying a developing embryo or fetus within the female body. This condition can be indicated by positive results on an over-the-counter urine test, and confirmed through a blood test, ultrasound, detection of fetal heartbeat, or an X-ray. Pregnancy lasts for about nine months, measured from the date of the woman's last menstrual period (LMP). It is conventionally divided into three trimesters, each roughly three months long." By this definition there is a pregancy once there is a developing embryo. If measured from the LMP, the time of pregancy would include the time before implantation. Biology online defines an abortifacient as "a drug or compound that induces the expulsion of an embryo or foetus" without reference to pregnancy or implantation.[1] The definitions given by the Protection of Conscience Project [2] also include drugs that prevent implantation among abortifacients. The first two references ( and are I think fairly neutral, or at least not overtly partisan. The last organization may be more partisan, but its board is chiefly comprised of doctors and lawyers from what I could tell at a glance. The key point is that the definitions of the words used in this debate are themselves debated; it appears to me that neither side is entirely unreasonable. Wesley 16:28, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

Well this is opening up a whole can of worms. If LMP is counted, a woman is "pregnant" around 2 weeks before fertilization and intercourse. Also, if having a developing embryo in the uterus is enough to constitute pregnancy, then 100% of IVF cases result in pregnancy (even though 40-60% fail to implant or are lost by the next menstrual cycle). But you are missing the key point of your cited definition. A pregnancy will NOT show up on any known test before implantation. A woman's body does not physically/chemically change until implantation. The AMA and the ACOG and the BMA, among many, many others, all define pregnancy as starting from implantation (even if gestational age is counted by LMP). And to further complicate matters, there is no scientific evidence that there are post-fertilization effects to hormonal contraception (including EC). So not only are the terms and definitions debated (as you point out), but the actual reality of implantation prevention is unproven. Anyway, I think a reasonable solution would be to create an article about the begining of pregnancy controversy (so we don't have to hash this out in full on every semi-relevent article), and then mention that certain forms of BC are seen to be abortifacients by those who hold a specific definition of pregnancy (or err on the side of caution in regards to hypothetical modes of action of hormonal contraception).--Andrew c 20:03, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree, the beginning of pregnancy/beginning of life/beginning of humanity controversy deserves its own article, if it doesn't have one already. Here, we could follow your suggestion, or we could slant it the other way and mention that certain forms of abortifacients are seen as birth control by those who hold a narrow definition of pregnancy. Better of course would be to present this in a rather more neutral fashion without tilting so far either way. Wesley 16:30, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

disputed section

The medical community defines pregnancy as beginng at implantation, because of the ramifications of in vitro fertilization: embryos conceived in a laboratory dish do not make a woman pregnant. However, in the general public there is some debate over whether a woman is considered pregnant at the time of conception, or at implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine lining.

Fertilised embryos naturally fail to implant some 30% to 60% of the time.[1] It is argued that the high loss rate of early embryos is reason to avoid defining pregnancy at conception.

It is not clear how either of these points is relevant to defining pregnancy.
  1. Of course fertilizing an egg in a petri dish does not make a woman pregnant, because the embryo is not in her womb. Fertilizing an egg in a woman does not make her husband pregnant, or make any other woman pregnant. The fact that an egg can now be fertilized outside the womb does not alter the biology when it is fertilized inside the womb. An 8-month-old fetus in the womb surely makes his mother "pregnant". If at 7 months that baby was removed by Caesarian section and put in an incubator, the fact that the 8-month-old in the incubator does not make his mother pregnant surely does not mean that the 8-month-old in his mother's womb does not make his mother pregnant. A baby in the womb makes the mother pregnant. A baby not in her womb -- regardless of how or why it's not there -- does not make her pregnant.
  2. This is a little like saying that we should define "cancer" as only including kidney and skin cancer and not lung cancer because otherwise the death rate from cancer would be over 30%. The obvious reply is: Who says the death rate must not be over such-and-such a number. If 60% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, then that's a medical fact. If you find that fact unpleasant, that's too bad, but to say you want to redefine the words to avoid an unpleasant fact is just not scientifically justifiable.
Sorry if this sounds argumentative! I don't mean to be nasty, just to point out a logical flaw. Jay3141 24 Feb 2010. —Preceding undated comment added 05:54, 24 February 2010 (UTC).

Those who consider the beginning of pregnancy to be at the point of fertilization count among abortifacients any agent which may prevent implantation of an already-fertilized egg, even if the primary function of said methods is to prevent fertilization:

Breastfeeding infertility partially works by causing luteal phase defect,[2] which makes the uterine lining hostile to implantation; as such, defining implantation as the start of pregnancy would indicate that breastfeeding can be a form of abortion.

Some anti-abortion groups acknowledge the postfertilization effect of breastfeeding, but defend it based on the bioethical principle of double effect. Use of hormonal contraceptives, including EC, is usually motivated by an intention to avoid pregnancy - when one of the proposed mechanisms operates after fertilization, they consider these methods immoral. Breastfeeding is motivated by - and has the primary effect of - nourishing a child. Because the intention is not related to avoiding pregnancy, they do not consider immoral any secondary, or double, effect of harm done to unimplanted embryos.[3]


  1. ^ Kennedy, T.G. Physiology of implantation. 10th World Congress on in vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction. Vancouver, Canada, 24-28 May 1997.
  2. ^ Diaz, S. et. al. Relative contributions of anovulation and luteal phase defect to the reduced pregnancy rate of breastfeeding women. Fertility and Sterility. 1992 Sep;58(3):498-503. PMID 1521642.
  3. ^ Doesn't breastfeeding do the same thing as the Pill? Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2006. Accessed May 2006.

Side effects

There should be something in the article about the dangerous side effects of certain abortifacients, especially the do-it-yourself herbal variety. It would be irresponsible to put this information out there without such a warning. Does anyone know enough about them to tackle the job, or should we just search online for the info? MamaGeek  TALK  CONTRIB  15:59, 7 June 2006 (UTC)


I added a "citation needed" tag to the line about witchhunts. It certainly seems plausible, but there is no reference, and there is not even a date or date range. The sentence is also very vague (e.g. "European society"). Any help putting that sentence in order would be appreciated. MamaGeek  TALK  CONTRIB  16:10, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

And no, the Malleus Maleficarum is not evidence of frequent persecution. -- MLS —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:15, 8 January 2009 (UTC)


The topic of this article is abortifacient, which we define as substances that induce abortion. Regardless of the "when does pregnancy begin" discussion, breastfeeding would not belong in this article. Breastfeeding is not a substance (and therefore not an abortifacient) but instead is a technique. Even if one accepted the position that breastfeeding was a form of abortion, it would belong in the article on abortion and not here. Simply put - this article is narrowly focused on abortifacients, not broadly focused on all forms of abortion. - O^O

I concur. MamaGeek  TALK  CONTRIB  11:00, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

implantation prevention

I feel that we need to say "none of these listed agents can cause an abortion once a pregnancy has been established", but I am not 100% sure every single substance is covered, and I am not sure of the proper wording. What do others feel? I think its important to say that abortifacients are substances one can take after one is known to be pregnant in order to terminate that pregnancy, where this clearly doesn't apply to any of the listed hormonal contraceptives.--Andrew c 23:23, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

The copper IUD does not increase miscarriages in the 1st trimester, but if it is not (or cannot be, due to positioning of the embryo) removed, it does increase the risk of 2nd trimester miscarriage. Hormonal ones obviously don't do anything to implanted pregnancies.
The herbal ones I don't know about. I thought wild carrot, for example, was (believed by some herbalists to be) only a contraceptive, which worked primarily by disrupting implantation, but that did not affect implanted pregnancies. And yet here it is listed an abortifacient. Lyrl 23:43, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

Proposed Infobox for individual birth control method articles

Let's all work on reaching a consensus for a new infobox to be placed on each individual birth control method's article. I've created one to start with on the Wikipedia Proposed Infoboxes page, so go check it out and get involved in the process. MamaGeek (Talk/Contrib) 12:29, 14 June 2006 (UTC)


I changed "They are not effective if taken after a woman receives a positive pregnancy test" to read "They are not effective if taken after implantation." The latter is true, the former is nonsense - taking a positive pregnancy test itself has no effect on pharmaceutical agents. Silly people.

--Almondwine 17:07, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

Labeling controversy and Law

I also removed "federal" from "British and American federal law..." Article Six of the Constitution makes "federal" level law into the law of the land. To say something is characteristic of 'federal' law suggests that there are state laws which set opposing legal precedents. If there are, then those state laws are unconstitutional and without legal legitimacy. Furthermore, to use the term "American 'federal' law" is redundant, since all American law is federal and all federal law in Washington is American. Since 'federal' in this context suggests the existence of state level law that might might legitimately contradict the current legal precedent, I have removed the adjective. --Almondwine 15:13, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

There's not necessarily a conflict in different federal and state definitions of pregnancy. When judges interpret federal laws, they use the federal definition, and when they interpret state laws, they use that state's definition. There certainly are different definitions, though. From here:
A review of state laws conduced in April 2005 by The Alan Guttmacher Institute found that 22 states have enacted one or more laws defining "pregnancy." (Some of these states have adopted an explicit definition of pregnancy, whereas others have done so implicitly, by defining either "fetus" or "unborn child.") Despite the clear and long-standing medical consensus that pregnancy is not established until implantation, 18 states have enacted provisions premised on the notion that pregnancy begins at fertilization or conception (see table). (Although many of these laws use the imprecise term "conception," all but five leave it undefined. Significantly, however, all of the five states that do define the term equate it with fertilization.) Six states have provisions defining pregnancy as beginning at implantation, although two of these states include other definitions as well.
Lyrl 21:35, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
Lyrl, I've noticed that the medical community has likewise clarified the definition of "conception" to mean implantation and not fertilization. Al 21:42, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
Lyrl, the point is that putting "federal" in there suggests a conflict and distinction that doesn't exist. If 'federal' law says pregnancy begins at implantation, then American law says pregnancy begins at implantation. If you want to say that some state laws define pregnancy as beginning at conception then you can, with the caveat that American law uses implantation. Federal goes.--Almondwine 16:01, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

The only definitions I was able to find of "American law" either are inclusive of state law ("Used in certain jurisdictions to determine criminal responsibility" [3]), or reference both federal and state levels ("The law of the United States.... the jurisdiction of federal law and the laws in the fifty U.S. states and territories." Law of the United States) I have never before seen "American law" to refer exclusively to federal law and disagree on that being the only or most common definition. Lyrl 12:33, 2 July 2006 (UTC)

This seems to be very intellectually dishonest for the article page to state 'American law says...' while in the discussion page there is clear agreement that American federal laws apparently say something that American state laws do not. How can the article page say without exception or note that 'American laws says pregnancy starts at implantation' while it's agreed here in discussion that American law (state law) does not agree with that statement? The casual reader would, I believe, read the article portion saying that 'American laws says pregnancy begins at implantation' and believe that the issue is settled in both state and federal law to be the same, when in fact it is not. The article seems very misleading, and after reading this section I would say it seems to be purposefully misleading because those discussing it show they know both sides so clearly yet allow the article to convey a different idea. Dcsutherland (talk) 05:40, 9 April 2010 (UTC)


Should emmenagogue be merged here? --Galaxiaad 16:08, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

Emmenagogues may also be used by women who have cycle abnormalities for reasons other than pregnancy. While the topics overlap, I'm not sure it's enough to justify a merge. Lyrl Talk C 12:36, 5 May 2007 (UTC)
No, they should not be merged. Women may wish to stimulate menstruation in the absence of pregnancy. Women with PCOS, for example, may use emmenagogues to stimulate menstrual flow as long periods of time may pass without menstruation occurring. Joie de Vivre 17:33, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

Sister Zeus


Re-add Sister Zeus - this is about as reliable as you get for herbal abortifacients

The following WP:RS books discuss herbal abortifacients, contraceptives, and emmenagogues:

  • Riddle, John M. (1992). Contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the Renaissance ISBN 0674168755
  • Brodie, Janet Farrell (1994). Contraception and abortion in nineteenth-century America ISBN 0801428491
  • Riddle, John M. (1997). Eve's herbs : a history of contraception and abortion in the West ISBN 067427024X
  • Tone, Andrea (2001). Devices and desires : a history of contraceptives in America ISBN 080903817X
  • Schiebinger, Londa L. (2004). Plants and empire : colonial bioprospecting in the Atlantic world ISBN 0674014871

These books (which can each be found in hundreds of libraries) are by historians with PhDs in history who are full professors of history at major universities.

The pseudonymous "Sister Zeus", who lists her qualifications on this: Informed Concent & Full Disclosure page of her personal commercial website, is obviously not a WP:RS.

The external link to the "Sister Zeus" website Preventing and Ending Pregnancy page with its Visit my Online Book Store and mountain rose herbs™ banner ads is WP:LINKSPAM and an example of WP:External links#Links normally to be avoided. 04:52, 9 July 2007 (UTC)The preceding contrib actually represents 3 edits by the signing editor, at 04:52 thru 05:04.


I've read that misoprostol, which induces abortion, is also used to induce labor. I'm assuming the difference is the latter is in a full-term gestation. Can anyone speak to this?

Addendum: Although I'm still not clear on timeframe, there does seem to be a controversy. Is it worth adding to the article?

rhetoric 12:05, 20 October 2007 (UTC)

This is already covered on Wikipedia: Misoprostol#Labor induction. Labor induction is beyond the scope of the abortifacient article, but if you would like to improve the misoprostol article please do. LyrlTalk C 01:28, 21 October 2007 (UTC)


Current data does not substantiate the idea that the copper IUD has abortifacient activity. Unless someone is willing to write ut detauk about the "controversy" (practically all OB/GYN and other medical professional organizations are very clear in their stance that the IUD is NOT an abortifacient, while others use outdated information to make dated claims), this is getting removed. -- (talk) 17:38, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

The IUD has a primary mechanism that is not abortifacient. Some argue (and are published in peer-reviewed journals as recently as 2002, as cited in this article) that is might have a secondary mechanism that is abortifacient.
All the other methods listed in this article also have primary mechanisms that are not abortifacient, and the existence of secondary, abortifacient, mechanisms is controversial and not accepted for all of them. This article states that. Clarifying that language is welcome, but I don't believe removing just one method from the list can be supported. LyrlTalk C 13:33, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
  • The phrase "ut detauk" in 192's contrib appears thus in the edit history, so it is not post-save vandalism. The mis-key "ub detauk" would be the result of typing on a typical American QWERTY keyboard, with the right hand mispositioned one key-width to the left, and "in detail" intended. But FWIW, what was typed is more consistent with intending "iy detail" ....
    --Jerzyt 02:55, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

Fertility awareness methods

I am once again removing this section. The theory was postulated by a philosophy professor with absolutely no medical training. It has about a 100 response letters from actual scientists and medical professionals debunking the ridiculous claims made by the author, which show a complete lack of understanding of reproductive physiology. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:19, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

The author did show some major misunderstandings of reproductive physiology. But his proposal that aged gametes are capable of creating embryos, but the resulting embryos are disproportionately unable to implant, was not debunked. Pre-implanted in vivo embryos are just so difficult to study, there is no evidence either for or against this claim. The other methods listed as "proposed abortifacients" also lack evidence for actually being abortifacient; that's why the section says "the existence of post-fertilization mechanisms is debated" and that these methods "have been proposed" to have abortifacient properties. If this language is not ambivalent enough, I support rewording to increase clarity on the doubt over the existence of these proposed mechanisms. However, I do not see a compelling argument to remove one method (fertility awareness) while leaving the others in the list. LyrlTalk C 12:39, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

Modern excommunication

Mgr Elio Sgreccia, of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has declared that the canonical laws on abortion would also apply to anyone who takes the abortion pill, following the decision by Italy’s drugs regulation agency to authorise its use. [4] ADM (talk) 23:12, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Ellaone (ulipristal acetate)

The article should maybe include information about Ellaone (ulipristal acetate), which has been described in European media has the post-morning-after pill, due to the fact that it is applied once RU286 no longer works. [5] ADM (talk) 04:02, 29 September 2009 (UTC)

The linked article says it can be used up to 120 hours after intercourse, which is exactly the same time frame recommended for currently available emergency contraceptive pills. I think it was ECPs that you were comparing ellaone to: RU486 (mifepristone) unambiguously causes abortion in early and mid-term pregnancies. RU486 can be used alone to induce an abortion in pregnancies up to four weeks gestation, and in combination with a prostaglandin (such as misoprostol or gemeprost) to induce an abortion in pregnancies of up to 24 weeks. LyrlTalk C 11:05, 29 September 2009 (UTC)

Merge Medical abortion to Abortifacient

It seems like everything that is written (and perhaps everything that would ever be written) in Medical abortion can just as well be placed in Abortifacient. Mikael Häggström (talk) 09:06, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Support merge; not sure which direction to merge though. Bwrs (talk) 00:11, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose merge; There are many substances that have been used as or purported to be abortifacients (whether there is evidence of effectiveness or not). So the scope of abortifacient is considerably broader than that of medical abortion (which would be primarily using methods currently shown to be safe and effective). I think there is room for both articles, with most of the information about current medically accepted methods in one, while abortifacient can cover all the rest. Zodon (talk) 03:48, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose merge; Would seem obvious, but medical abortion is a procedure, and abortifacients are typically herbs or drugs. Because of the historical context of abortifacients, it is too broad a subject matter for a single section (when developed) and would not add clarity to the medical abortion article, and likely would make that article less useful for its original intent. Additionally, there is a lot of history in abortifacients, literally for thousands of years before modern medical abortions. Finally, many historical abortifacients were likely not effective but still used because of the myth behind them. These do not belong in an article about medical abortion, again, as they would make it more confusing. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:48, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose merge; per discussion above. The scope of abortifacient is significantly broader than medical abortion. DigitalHoodoo (talk) 20:27, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

I agree as well. Mikael Häggström (talk) 16:26, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Pine Needle Addendum to "Herbal abortifacients"

This is a high profile page, and I wanted to clear an addendum here before I edited the article. Ponderosa Pine (and other plants with Isocupressic Acid) causes "Pine Needle Abortion" in cattle.

James, L. F., R. E. Short, K. E. Panter, R. J. Molyneux, L. D. Stuart, and R. A. Bellows. 1989. “Pine Needle Abortion in Cattle: A Review and Report of 1973- 1984 Research.” Cornell Vet. 79:39.

Due to the abortifacient properties in cattle, herbalist warn against pregnant women drinking pine needle tea:

Poisonous plants: a handbook for doctors, pharmacists, toxicologists ... By Dietrich Frohne, Hans Jürgen Pfänder

If posted, I would cite my sources accordingly. I'm quite open to suggestions from the community, as this is the first edit to Wikipedia I've ever made. Thank you.

Sjmoquin (talk) 07:37, 24 March 2011 (UTC)

The source seems to pass WP:MEDRS muster as a) a reliable journal b) a review of primary-source research. Roscelese (talkcontribs) 07:49, 24 March 2011 (UTC)