The Need For Accurate Contraceptive Awareness And Advocacy Among Health Care Providers

A person with tan skin wearing a lab coat holds contraceptive pills in sterile packaging.

In a new article for Health Affairs titled “The Need For Accurate Contraceptive Awareness And Advocacy Among Health Care Providers,” CORE Researchers Jenny Higgins, Lindsay M. Cannon, Laurel W. Rice and David K. Turok investigate how health care professionals understand and define pregnancy, the mechanisms of contraception, and the differences between contraception and abortifacients. Broad misunderstandings of these terms contribute to health policies that limit access to the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods.

The team writes, “According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnancy is defined as “the period of time from implantation to delivery,” which begins when a fertilized egg is implanted into the uterine wall. This definition is consistent across all major US medical organizations and US governmental agencies. Abortion has a precise meaning in the medical and scientific community as a termination of pregnancy. As such, an abortifacient, or drug that causes an abortion, works after a fertilized egg has implanted into the uterine lining.

In contrast, a method of contraception must prevent pregnancy by preventing the fertilization of an egg or by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. Thus,  to be considered a contraceptive product, a method must prevent pregnancy before a pregnancy is established through the process of implantation. Thus, contraceptive methods including but not limited to pills, patches, rings, IUDs, injections, implants, sterilization, emergency contraception, and barrier methods, all prevent pregnancy prior to implantation; none disrupt an existing pregnancy.

There are two methods of contraception that tend to be especially misunderstood: IUDs and pill-based emergency contraception.”

To read the full article and see survey data from healthcare providers, go to

The authors express gratitude to the University of Wisconsin Survey Center for their invaluable methodological expertise and survey administration. They also thank the supporters and staff of UW CORE. Finally, they are grateful to Freya Riedlin at the Center for Reproductive Rights for helping identify political appointees’ statements about contraception.

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