I ate my wafer...


I had 3 siblings, but they all died as zygotes...

Lisa has a recent post (scroll down) discussing the inappropriateness of the term “Emergency Contraceptive” for anti-implantation pharmaceuticals. Since Krupa has been bemoaning the lack of controversial posting, I’ve decided to take the bait:

A. Conception, as a properly used term of art means implantation. That is, the board certifying society for Ob-Gyn, ACOG, defines conception as the moment that a blastocyst implants in the uterine wall. It is true that ACOG revised their definition some 30 years ago on the topic, however, historically, the term contraceptive has been applied to many early term abortificants. (Queen Ann’s lace, and mercury preparations in the civil war era).

B. As a practical matter, defining conception as taking place at implantation helps to deal with the unstable nature of the zygote. That is, zygotes may split into twins, or several (I think only 2) zygotes can combine into a single embryo. Not to mention the relatively low, probably best case, 50%, chance a zygote has at a successful pregnancy. Most people I know, no matter what their views on abortion, do not discuss zygote death in the same terms as embryo death. That is, very few people with say, 3 children, ever think about the 2-6 children that died as zygotes. Of course, depending on ones theological positions, there are all sorts of interesting questions about the ensoulment, salvation-status, etc of the 2-6 dead zygotes.

C. The commonly available emergency contraceptives work primarilly by preventing ovulation and fertilization, and in my oppinion definitely deserve to be called contraceptives. For example, “Plan B” works primarily by preventing post-coital ovulation in the time period where motile sperm are still present, and also helps produce a thickened cervical mucas to prevent fertilization. The FDA won't even let the manufacturers of Plan B claim that it prevents implantation, they have to add the "may" disclaimer to their product literature.


  • More interesting, from a theological point of view, is that if each zygote has a soul and two zygotes can combine into one born child, then does that child have two souls?

    By Blogger Daniel Silliman, at 12:32 AM  

  • Exactly. I'd tend to lean towards an only one soul per embryo position, but before that, heck if I know.

    I was tempted to add to the original that I'm curious about the roman catholic position on the topic, since I've heard rumor to the effect that the 1917 Canon law allowed for the baptism of fetuses in utero. Obviously, the current canon law only allows baptism of fetus that you can run water accross...i.e. delivered ones, and relies on rejection of baptism as indicating damnnation. So, in 1920, had the R.C. church known about the number of zygotes dying, would they have attempted to baptise them?

    By Blogger Bob, at 12:07 PM  

  • A good response. I suppose that if they're going to technically define conception as implantation, the term is scientifically accurate. Likewise, I did not know that "plan B" was designed in part to prevent post-coital ovulation. That, obviously, I have no beef with.
    I am still uneasy, however, with the idea of deciding that it's not 'conception' until the zygote has implanted. It's not stable, and granted the odds of survival are slim. But I find it hard to believe that the 'miracle of life' occurs when a living organism attaches to the uteran wall for nourishment rather than when two human sets of DNA combine to create said living being. I do know that a vast number of babies are spontaneously aborted. I think it's a terribly sad side effect of a fallen world, and I'm grateful that we usually don't know, and consequently don't mourn, the death. Conveniently for me, my Church doesn't feel that their lack of baptism sends them to hell.
    All of which comes down to: thanks for the correction. If that's the definition, then technically, medically, it's a contraceptive/attempted abortive, instead of just an abortive. Which is somewhat reassuring. I still wouldn't advocate it, obviously.
    As to the question of souls, I wouldn't really get into that. I think it's a bit too daring for us to speculate so wildly on something we know so little about. But that's why I'm not a theologian, so those of y'all that are fire ahead and enjoy.

    By Blogger TeaLizzy, at 7:58 AM  

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