Northwestern University

Thu 12:00 PM

You Say Abortifacient, I Say Abortifacient - Lisa Campo-Engelstein

recurring see all events in this series

When: Thursday, November 15, 2018
12:00 PM - 12:45 PM  

Where: Robert H Lurie Medical Research Center, 1st floor - Searle room, 303 E. Superior, Chicago, IL 60611 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Myria Knox   312.503.7962

Group: Medical Humanities & Bioethics Lunchtime Montgomery Lectures

Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities Events

Category: Lectures & Meetings


The Master of Arts in Medical Humanities & Bioethics program presents

A Montgomery Lecture


Lisa Campo-Engelstein, PhD
Associate Professor
Alden March Bioethics Institute
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Albany Medical College
Albany, New York

You Say Abortifacient, I Say Abortifacient: Understanding the Contested Language of Abortion and the Underlying Values

Contraception works in one of two ways: by preventing fertilization of an egg or by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the uterus. For individuals who believe that life begins at conception (what we label the pro-embryo view), preventing implantation of an embryo is unethical because it’s seen as intentionally killing the embryo. Although the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines an abortifacient as “an agent that disturbs an embryo already implanted in the uterine lining, after a pregnancy has been established,” some who hold this pro-embryo view refer to contraceptives that work by preventing implantation as abortifacients, because there is no other term that acknowledges when contraceptives prevent implantation, which they see as the intentional killing of an embryo. Such usage has, and probably will continue to, engender increased hostility between both sides: pro-choice individuals will view pro-life individuals as ignorant for misusing this word and pro-life individuals will view pro-choice individuals as narrow-minded for not recognizing the loss associated with contraceptives that prevent implantation. Recent cases, including the Hobby Lobby case, have highlighted this discordance and perpetuated miscommunication between both sides about the nature of religious objections to contraception which are based on post-conception, pre-implantation mechanisms. While some individuals classifying contraceptives as abortifacients are simply misusing the term, there is also something deeper is going on here. We argue that in order to have a civil discussion about abortion, we need to be using the terminology consistently and if there are gaps in our language, we need new terms to help move the dialogue forward.


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