Richard Carrier doesn’t just jujitsu apart bogus books. He also regularly takes his fellow pro-choicers to task for a dirty bit of obfuscation over the issue of the birth control pill’s affect on fertilized embryos.
Simply put, there’s a good case that pro-life pharmacists aren’t crazy when they worry that the morning after pill, or even the regular birth control pill, can cause abortions (which they define as including anything that actively prevents a fertilized embryo from implanting and surviving), and then refuse to proscribe the medication on moral grounds. They might be unethically breaching their profession’s duties, depending on how you define them, misleading and hurting their customers, or even dishonestly shortchanging their employers. But their suggestion that these medications can lead to the death of post-conception embryos (via blocking implantation) isn’t, as it is so often portrayed by even some pro-lifers, an improbable lie. Certainly, it isn’t the common mechanism of contraception, but as Carrier notes, the blocking of implantation is perfectly possible (which is what matters to pro-life folks), and the presentation of the science in this area by advocates of the morning-after pill, or even the regular pill, seems decidedly misleading and deceptive. Per Carrier:
Since the effects on the endometrium are fully documented and conceded by these authors, and since as a matter of established physiology these changes will certainly reduce the probability (which is a fancy word for frequency) of successful implantation of fertilized embryos, and since it is an equally established fact that chemical birth control often fails to prevent fertilization, I do not see how the authors of this paper can honestly get away with dismissing the obvious outcome as “unknown.”
Even the maker’s of Plan B, which works primarily by suppressing ovulation, state right on their product information page that it can prevent implantation. Which is a plus if you are trying to prevent pregnancy, of course.
All this is not to say that I, or Carrier, support, like, or condone anyone pushing to reduce women’s access to birth control or even chemical abortions. In fact, the realization that even the regular birth control pill could be a potential abortaficient might even be a powerful argument for things like Plan B: demonstrating just how widespread and normal the death of embryos via failed implantation is (its something, in fact, that even the human body sometimes does on its own in any case).
Misrepresenting the science doesn’t do the pro-choice side any good: it sets us up to look like liars, and perhaps worse, it distracts us from the harder but ultimately more important work of convincing people that a discarded embryo is not a murdered person.