January 18, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

What do stem cells have to do with contraception?

If you care about contraception, you need to understand stem cells.human sperm and egg, contraception

And if you care about stem cells you should know more about birth control.


There is a big media to-do about federal guidelines related to health care organizations providing birth control.

President Obama has gotten into the fray and in fact just today made an announcement of a compromise federal birth control plan. In this plan, reportedly, institutions that are religious in nature will not have to provide contraception to employees, but insurers will have to provide free coverage.

Some religious organizations object to all contraception while others specifically do not approve of certain forms of contraception because they target the fertilized egg.

The fertilized egg, in my opinion, is not a person, but it is the most powerful stem cell of any kind.

The 1 cell fertilized egg, also known as the zygote, has the power to form all types of human cells including extraembryonic tissues that even embryonic stem cells and iPS cells cannot form.

It is the only stem cell, which if many things go right, can potentially grow into a human being. But that’s a big “if”.

Just two of the hurdles it faces are (1) early stage survival (many fertilized eggs or embryos in the first few days post-fertilization simply fail to grow) and (2) proper implantation into the uterus.

Many other hurdles come later.

Of course fertilized eggs produced by IVF in a plastic dish in an incubator in a lab have no chance of ever becoming a human being.

No chance that is unless they are implanted into a woman.

And for 99.99+% of the frozen blastocysts made by IVF that are sitting in liquid nitrogen right now, they will never even be in the pipeline to become a person.

Some forms of birth control try to keep fertilization from happening in the first place.

Other forms have the potential to block the development  of fertilized eggs and/or early embryo implantation.

While the one cell that is a fertilized egg is pretty amazing in terms of its power as a stem cell, it is a cell, not a person.

Potentiality is not equality.

In theory iPS cells may have the potential to form a person too like a fertilized egg, but no one believes that iPS cells are people.

As I’ve said many times before, if we give cells human rights than we must at the same take away rights from real, living, breathing people. This whole political tangle over birth control misses that point. So many extremists want to give a single cell, the fertilized egg, a stem cell, the same rights as an actual woman. In that equation you are taking rights away from the woman. There is no way around that.

Why is it that many of the same folks who are most fervent about protecting the rights of 1 cell fertilized eggs are the same ones who are opposed to giving full human rights to women and fail to do all they can to take care of real people?

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