The Big Lie: Why can’t the abortion lobby make up its mind about personhood and birth control?

by Laurel Recsetar and Cooper Crouch

The abortion lobby has itself in a pretzel. On one hand, Planned Parenthood and other supporters of abortion argue that certain forms of contraception (e.g. Plan B and Ella) do not have abortifacient effects. These proponents of abortion mock the “unproven claim that they will interfere with a fertilized egg’s implantation.” But then, when it’s convenient, they pivot and make the exact opposite claim.

At no time was the rhetoric more heated over the scientific effects of birth control than during the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. A Mother Jones headline read “In Hobby Lobby Case, the Supreme Court Chooses Religion Over Science,” declaring the science settled that “Plan B, Ella, and two intrauterine devices—do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus.”

The LA Times opined that “the weight of scientific evidence indicates that IUDs act as contraceptives. They prevent fertilization” and dismissed beliefs to the contrary as “crazy.” The New Republic agreed, calling it “undisputed scientific fact” that such forms of birth control do not prevent implantation.

NARAL tweeted an RH Reality Check article about Hobby Lobby to fans saying “Science is on our side.” The article derided “the idea that Plan B could affect implantation ‘scientifically unsupported speculation.’”

But that was four months ago.

Now, as voters in North Dakota and Colorado consider personhood measures on the ballot, abortion advocates are changing their tune.

Today, NARAL is sounding the alarm that “‘Personhood’ measures would ban most common forms of birth control. Any form of contraceptive that prevents implantation, rather than or in addition to fertilization, would be banned. This would have an enormous impact on the 99 percent of American women who use birth control.”

Wait a minute, I thought the idea that birth control could affect implantation was “scientifically unsupported speculation”?

Indeed, the pro-abortion lobby’s most common refrain is that personhood would ban contraception. Planned Parenthood has stated repeatedly that personhood would this “outlaw women’s health services like . . . the birth control pill.”

Even the mainstream media has picked up the refrain, fooling political candidates like Colorado’s Cory Gardner who renounced his support for recognizing life at conception because he bought into Planned Parenthood’s “Big Lie” that Personhood would outlaw contraception.

In fact, mainstream media outlets have swallowed this internal contradiction so deeply that they express it with a straight face in a single breath. A hostile MSNBC article declares that “Personhood would indeed threaten some forms of contraception – the ones Personhood supporters insist, despite evidence and medical definitions, are actually abortion, because of the unproven claim that they will interfere with a fertilized egg’s implantation.”

Huh? If evidence and medical definitions show that these forms of contraception aren’t actually abortifacient and do not interfere with implantation, how is it conceivably possible that they could be banned?

Thankfully, at least some commentators aren’t asleep at the wheel. Ramesh Ponnuru at the National Review has been actively vocal in pointing out this absurd pro-abortion contradiction.

So which is it? Was the pro-abortion lobby lying then, or are they lying now? Are Planned Parenthood and their allies deliberately lying and using scare tactics to undermine support for personhood amendments?

The truth is that personhood amendments do not and could not affect the legality of contraception which merely prevents fertilization. Therefore, if it’s true that certain forms of contraception do not have abortifacient effects, then there is no risk of that contraception becoming illegal upon adoption of a personhood amendment.

The purpose of personhood is to protect the lives of persons who cannot protect themselves: the unborn. It is not and never has been about outlawing contraception which prevents a new human being from coming into existence in the first place. That’s just the abortion lobby’s Big Lie.

cooperCooper Crouch is a United Nations liaison for Personhood USA. Born and raised on the South Texas border, Cooper took interest in public policy at a young age due to her geographic location and immersion during her first job for the Secret Service. In 2012, she transplanted her life to New York City, where she is now a senior studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at The King’s College.


laurel recsetarLaurel Recsetar is a United Nations liaison for Personhood USA. She is a senior studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at The King’s College in New York City. She plans to practice family law and continue pro-life advocacy work throughout her career.



  1. The anti-abortion lobby has itself tied up in knots because it spouts the lie “Abortion bad, IVF good.”

    The truth is, by entering in in-vitro fertilization (IVF), you are knowingly participating in a procedure that creates up to a dozen embryos. Usually at least 2 are implanted, with the expectation that at least one will die. Most die in the Petri dish, maybe one will survive the freezing procedure. Congratulations! With a successful IVF pregnancy you’ve just killed 10 embryos!

    Of course, almost nobody takes the thousands upon thousands of frozen embryos “saved” from IVF procedures like this, because moms would prefer their own genes in their baby. The rare few embryos that are surviving a few years of freezing are thrown away. Who’s going to take these “babies”?? How is it ok to keep making them, if we’re being honest, we’re making almost all of them to die?

    Pretending intentional abortion of embryos is tragic and IVF or natural embryo loss is not is the utmost of hypocrisy.

    Your group is tied up in knots because you can’t agree on personhood yourselves. Tell me, since you see the world is such black and white, WHEN, precisely, do gametes become a “person”? Is a sperm a person? Is an egg a person? If you think a single-celled zygote is a person but an egg is not, when did it become a person? When the sperm started following the egg’s chemical trail? When the first protein on the sperm’s wall touches the egg’s wall? When the sperm first opens a pore in the egg’s membrane? When the nuclei first start to dissolve? When the nuclei fully dissolve? When the chromosomes unravel? When the first base pair of the DNA attaches? When the last one does?

    Or, you could go much further down the line. When the zygote embeds in a uterine wall? First thought, perhaps? First cry? You need to draw the line WHEN EXACTLY something becomes a person before you call pro-choicers stupid for not being able to accept where you draw your line. Half of all naturally formed embryos pass through the vagina without attaching to the uterus, without the potential mom ever knowing about it. They land in a toilet, are flushed and die. If you truly believe that all embryos are people, why are you doing nothing to save the the toilet babies? By your standard thousands of toilet babies die each day, and you don’t even blink.

    This could be because you’re heartless. It’s more likely because you’re a hypocrite.

    1. >> How is it ok to keep making them… we’re making almost all of them to die?

      It’s not ok. It’s grotesquely wrong. It should be illegal to freeze embryos. It’s especially obnoxious when egg-freezing is available.

      >>you need to draw the line WHEN EXACTLY something becomes a person

      No problem. Every human being should be protected from the beginning of her life which is conception

      >>Half of all naturally formed embryos pass

      They actually don’t know the percentage because all they have to go on is based on IVF which involves various drugs and unnatural processes.

      You’re confused because you don’t understand the moral difference between natural death and intentional killing. Protecting human beings under the law cannot stop them from dying of natural death. But it can stop people from killing them.

      1. Actually, most embryos in IVF die before freezing is even an option. Multiples need to be made for a viable embryo to be transfered.

        What do you mean by “conception”? You assume a sperm and egg touch and POOF it’s a human? What if they touch and fail to share DNA? Is it still a human? Gametes in various stages of fertilization die in Petri dishes. When has a “murder” been committed, and when is it just two non-person cells dying? What if the nuclei dissolve but no DNA bthe ase pairs are formed? Is it murder if that cell is killed?

        You misunderstand the value of a human life. You think it only matters if it was murdered, but any other means of death we don’t need to care.

        Yes, there has been a lot of research on the percentage of natural embryo de.ath outside IVF. Numbers vary but most agree it’s about half. The vast majority of embryos dying is from natural failure to implant. And you want to focus on a few hundred abortions a year? Why not force women to go on fertility hormones? You would save millions of embryos! You only think an embryo is a person when abortion is involved.

      2. >>What do you mean by “conception”?

        I understand that there is some disagreement among scientists about exactly when during the conception process a human being begins her life. That is a practical question not a question of principle. The principle is that each human being should be protected, whenever a human being begins to exist.

        Addressing the practical question, it generally doesn’t matter if a human begins life at fertilization (sperm penetrates egg) or when the DNA combines, because no one is actively killing embryos during that time period. In some obscure case when the exact timing is important: because there is reasonable scientific disagreement on the issue, we should error on the side of caution which means we should act as if life begins at fertilization.

        >> Gametes in various stages of fertilization die in Petri dishes. When has a “murder” been committed

        I would think that this problem also occurs with normal conception. Either it means that a human being was never created or it means a human being died naturally. Either way you look at it, no murder was committed.

        >>You think it only matters if it was murdered, but any other means of death we don’t need to care.

        Not at all. I just recognize that we can’t always stop people from dying of natural causes. We should certainly take reasonable measures to help all people live.

        >>Yes, there has been a lot of research on the percentage of natural embryo death outside IVF.

        Do you have any links to this research? My guess is that it would have to be with animals which might not apply to humans.

      3. I know my “few hundred abortions a year” comment is an underestimation. It doesn’t change the fact that at least 4X as many embryos die “naturally” as there are abortions, even by the most conservative estimations.

      4. >> at least 4X as many embryos die “naturally” as there are abortions

        You, me, all human beings are going to die. Our pending unavoidable deaths don’t make us non-persons, unworthy of protection under law.

  2. I want to leave this here as well: How many people is one embryo? Sometimes, after the first cell division (one cell becomes two) the two cells separate. That’s how we get identical twins. At the first cell division, is an embryo two people? If we don’t induce the first two cells of an embryo to separate, are we facilitating the death of one of the twins?

    Instead of getting all bent out of shape about the personhood of embryos, I suggest my point of view: An embryo is not a person, just like a seed is not a tree.

    1. >>How many people is one embryo?

      One human being is one person. If the embryo experiences asexual reproduction, creating another human being then you now have two persons. The fact that an embryo can split to create a second human being doesn’t negate the fact that you have a single human person to begin with. If i took one of your cells and created a clone, that wouldn’t mean you didn’t exist before i made the clone.

      >>just like a seed is not a tree.

      A seed actually is an embryonic tree. Your analogy only points out that an embryo is not an adult. A newborn isn’t an adult. A toddler isn’t an adult. An adolescent isn’t an adult. You should accept my view that all of them are human beings who should be protected under law.

      1. Regarding the seed: there’s a major difference. You don’t buy a bag of trees.
        A seed grows into a tree. An embryo is not a child, this is not a difference between child/adult. A newborn, toddler, adolescent can all be called a person, I disagree, as you already know, about the embryo. An embryo grows into a person. How come you never read in record books “smallest child ever born was a single cell”.

      2. >>A seed grows into a tree.

        Yes. A seed grows into a tree and an embryo grows into an adult. In both cases, the type of creature doesn’t change. The thing’s nature doesn’t change. We merely see it fulfill its inherent capacity.

        >>An embryo grows into a person.

        No, because an embryo is already a person.

        To get past this disagreement, we need to define what it means to be a person. To start, do you agree that animals are non-persons?

      3. That does seem to be the crux of our disagreement, no?

        Ok, I’ll play. And sure, I’ll agree that animals aren’t people. Lucky for you I’m not a member of PETA!

      4. So, what differentiates us from animals?

        i think this is where the distinction lies: Animals do not have the capacity for moral and rational thought.

        Of course, newborns don’t exhibit moral and rational thought. When i’m asleep, i don’t exhibit moral and rational thought. In both cases, the human being has an inherent capacity even though he’s not able exhibit that capacity at the moment.

        From the beginning of life, human beings have that inherent capacity. That’s why embryos are persons.

      5. I think the definition is much simpler. A person is a developed human being (of the homo sapien species).

        Did you know that prairie dogs will chirp and run out in the open to distract predators so other prairie dogs in the area can escape? It detects a predator, and calculates the danger to the colony (rational thought), then commits a brave, selfless (moral) act.

        I think many animals have the capacity to think rationally, problem solve, and act morally. Any dog owner will tell you their pet does things to make their owner happy, without motivation of food. I’d call that acting morally.

        I think “moral” is a tough word to nail down. We’re certainly the only species I know of that has religion, but there are people without religion. Someone without religion is still a person. “Potential” to become a moral rational thinking being does not qualify personhood. Losing that potential, for example, someone who falls into a coma and is about to die, does not constitute the loss of personhood.

        An embryo is not a person, but it can develop into one.

      6. >>A person is a developed human being (of the homo sapien species).

        A five day embryo is a developed human being, more developed than 1 day old embryo. A newborn is less developed than an adult. Your definition needs serious help.

        The difference between the human beings experiencing these different degrees of development is a matter of degree, not a matter of kind. You seem to think that a being can change its essential nature as it matures (become a person) but this is false. Our nature doesn’t change, so neither does our personhood.

      7. How do you not see the different between development of all the working structures of human anatomy in the womb and growth of those structures from a child to an adult?

        Virtually all human structures are formed somewhere around 30-40 weeks after fertilization. Until those structures form, it is not a person. Beyond that time, those structures only grow, and the only development (i.e., formation of something new) is minimal and restricted mainly to ideas in the child’s brain.

        An embryo is not a person because it has almost none of the distinguishing features of a person. Solely having human DNA does not make it a human. Taxonomically, at the earliest stage of fertilization, it is indistinguishable from other species.

      8. >>Solely having human DNA does not make it a human

        Sure. But certainly you’re not trying to deny that a human being comes into existence at conception?

        >>Until those structures form, it is not a person

        You’re saying the structures make you a person. But that’s not what separates us from animals. Animals have structures too. Structures, on their own, are worthless. It’s what those structures ultimately (not currently) provide us with (moral and rational thought) that makes the difference. In other words, it’s inherent capacity not immediate capacity that matters. Your “structures” argument is really a disguised inherent capacity argument.

        So, why should we recognize a newborn or 30 wk unborn as a person when all they have are the structures but those structures are not providing them with what really matters: moral and rational thought? It’s because the newborn and 30wk unborn baby have the inherent capacity for moral rational thought. And a newly conceived embryo hasn’t yet formed the structures but she has the same inherent capacity that the newborn and 30 wk unborn have.

      9. No, the structures, once developed are enough to tell us apart from other animals. Using taxonomy, it’s pretty easy to tell a human apart from an animal, even in early infancy. I recommend typing “human” into Wikipedia.

        I never agreed that “morals and rational thought” is why we should care about humans more than animals. In fact, I just explained to you that we are not unique in have both morals and rational thought. Animals have those too. Morals and rational thought, or the capacity to develop those things, does not define a person. Otherwise prairie dogs are people.

        We care about humans, because because we are humans. Almost all of us are able to reason better than animals, but not all of us. A person with severe brain damage, who will never again be able to reason better or have stronger morals than a chimp, is still a person.

      10. >>No, the structures, once developed are enough to tell us apart from other animals.

        Sure. But they have structures just as human have structures. This makes it clear that the existence of structures is irrelevant as i explained.

        >>I just explained to you that we are not unique in have both morals and rational thought.

        Oh, i didn’t take your argument seriously because it didn’t seem worth taking seriously. The gulf between human and animal capacities for moral and rational thought is so gaping that the two are hardly worthy of comparison.

        So, why do you think animals aren’t persons?

        >> A person with severe brain damage, who will never again be able to reason better or have stronger morals than a chimp, is still a person.

        Yes, i agree. But we recognize such a deficiency in a human being as an actual deficiency. Not so for the chimp. The human is still a person but he’s not able to realize his full human potential.

  3. Drew, I’m having trouble replying to your replies above. There must be some limit to the number of replies in a conversation.

    Some links for your consideration:

    For last 2, go through list of references at bottom. First 2: these are humans, where fertilization was achieved via intercourse. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this has been well studied beyond IVF, gynecology has been around for a long time. I suppose my figure was wrong, actually half of fertilizations end in spontaneous abortion, some of those do successfully implant. Apologies.

    Why aren’t you pushing for requiring women to take fertility hormones? This is a simple, proven method for improving the chances an embryo will survive to term. To not push for this implies embryo lives don’t matter.

    1. >>Why aren’t you pushing for requiring women to take fertility hormones?

      It reminds me of requiring people to be vaccinated, so i suppose it’s possible.

      Generally, we let parents be parents without requiring specific techniques in parenting. We don’t require parents to feed their children a certain way. Rather, we use the law to prevent specific negative behaviors that harm children. That seems appropriate.

      As for your suggestion of “requiring women to take fertility hormones”, you’re putting the cart before the horse. We focusing on the egregious atrocity of abortion before working to fix lesser problems.

      1. I find it baffling you find the major cause of death of embryos the “lesser problem”. If you’re trying to convince people a cell is a person, ignoring that discredits you.

      2. Abortion is the intentionally killing of an innocent person. So, it’s an atrocity. It’s the primary problem.

        Assuming you’re correct regarding the potency of such hormones, whether or not women take hormones is a lesser problem because it does not involve the intentional killing of an innocent human being.

      3. I think you care more about the act of “killing” than you do the lives of the “people”. Telling people who abort pregnancies that they commit atrocities makes no sense because there is no reason to think that an embryo is a person.

        That you only focus on abortion without calling natural embryo death a tragedy makes you look disingenuous, and makes pro-choicers think you don’t really believe an embryo is a person at all.

      4. I’m all for helping people save human beings at all ages. And i do so.

        >>makes no sense because there is no reason to think that an embryo is a person.

        I’ve given you good reason to think an embryo is a person. It’s you who refuses to explain your position. Exactly when does it become wrong to kill an unborn baby and why?

        >>makes pro-choicers think

        Pro-aborts always make up stupid things to believe about their opponents. They pick their facts selectively not only to malign their opponents but to attempt to justify murdering the innocent.

      5. I would love to hear what you’ve done to help save the lives of the spontaneously aborted.

        You’ve only given a vague idea of “conception” and given no reason why you draw the line somewhere around embryo and why gametes are not people. The genes are already there in the gametes, and everything about the person-to-be is coded in the sperm and egg.

        Anti-aborters assume their opponents agree that fertilized eggs are people and just want to be allowed to murder. Comments like this only make the divide worse.

      6. >>why gametes are not people.

        Gametes are not human beings. I hope you’re not confused about this.

        >>Anti-aborters assume their opponents agree that fertilized eggs are people

        Not at all. i completely understand why pro-aborts have a difficult time recognizing a newly conceived embryo as a person. The embryo doesn’t look like us yet. They don’t think yet. So i get it.

        But when the baby is older and obviously a baby, pro-aborts still support killing them and they justify such killings by saying stupid things like “it’s only a fetus” as if labeling is all it takes to define away the humanity of the victim.

      7. You still give no reason why gametes are not human beings. What I am confused about is why you think a zygote (not much different) is a person.

        I think we’re making ground here. There is clearly a difference between a later-term fetus and an embryo. Even I’ll admit third-trimester abortions are a tough decision. The truth is development is a long, slow process so of course drawing the line from gamete production to birth is difficult. Even you can’t decide at what stage of fertilization you think it’s a person. Drawing the line at birth remains our best option.

        You must know that third-trimester abortions are extremely rare and usually only done to save the life of the mom. Most abortions occur when the embryo slightly resembles a worm. Not a person yet.

      8. >>You still give no reason why gametes are not human beings.

        Are you serious? Take a gamete, put it in any favorable environment and let it live. Nurture it all you want. It will be a gamete until it dies. It has no inherent capacity for moral or rational thought. It’s merely part of the mother’s or father’s body. An embryo, on the other hand, is a complete albeit immature human being. Put her in a favorable environment and let her live. The results are obviously different.

        >>Drawing the line at birth remains our best option.
        You mean except for the fact that you’ve provided no reasoning or evidence to support such a conclusion.

        >>third-trimester abortions are extremely rare
        Wrong. They’re low as a percentage but the numbers are pretty high.

        >> and usually only done to save the life of the mom.
        Wrong again. Even most partial birth abortion were committed on healthy babies carried by healthy mothers.

        The low numbers of late-term abortions is irrelevant. Let’s say enslaving black people was legal but only a small percentage of black people were enslaved because most white people didn’t want to own slaves. Would you therefore say, “legalized slavery is no big deal” or would you recognize that the low enslavement percentage is irrelevant and the mere fact that slavery is legal is atrocity that should be decried?

        >>Most abortions occur when the embryo slightly resembles a worm.
        Not true. Standard age for surgical abortion is 8 weeks. Looks like a baby. But the main problem is that you’re basing human rights on what the human being looks like. That’s the way racists evaluate human rights too.

      9. A pair of gametes has just as much “capacity” as you describe it as a zygote. Your definition of personhood is just wrong.

        Looks like a baby if babies had flippers and no face! Not a person yet.

        The “gulf” between us and animals is not nearly as big as you imagine. Some arbitrary potential of morals does not make a person because some genetically deficient people never had that potential to begin with. Still a person though.

        “partial birth abortion” is a propoganda term for dialation and extraction, so any abortion after 16 weeks. Implying that “partial birth” means the pregnancy was carried to term is one of the most potent lies of the anti abortion rights lobby. I can’t blame you for falling for it. Of course most abortions in the 2nd term are elective. Most 3rd terms are for medical reasons.

        Slave owners knew slaves were people. This is about being a person, our bodies make us people, so if you don’t have a person’s body yet, you aren’t one. Playing the race card is weak and that you don’t see the difference is painful to behold.

      10. >>A pair of gametes has just as much “capacity” as you describe it as a zygote.

        Wrong. Take two gametes put them in any favorable environment. Nourish them. The will always be gametes and die as gametes.
        But when a sperm and egg unite, the gametes disappear and a new human being comes into existence. She will always be a human being and die as a human being. See the difference?

        >>Looks like a baby if babies had flippers and no face! Not a person yet.
        So, you’re no better than a racist who discriminates based on what someone looks like.

        >>“partial birth abortion” is a propoganda term for dialation and extraction
        Actually, “partial birth abortion” is an accurate description of a dilation and extraction. It’s called “partial birth” because the baby is partially born before she is killed. All but the head is delivered, when the abortionist stabs the baby in the back of the head and then sucks her brains out with a suction tube.

        PBA is a particular way of murdering late term babies. Other ways of murdering the baby are not prohibited in any way. So, no PBA isn’t any abortion after 16 weeks. There’s a lot of confusion on the pro-abortion side about this.

        Most abortions in both the 2nd and 3rd trimester are purely elective. People want their baby dead because babies get in the way.

        >>Playing the race card is weak
        You don’t know what the “race card” is. You’re reasoning is exactly the same as a racist’s reasoning. You don’t look like me, so you don’t count. You’d be better off sticking with the weak stuff about “structures”.

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