If a married woman is taking the pill for medical reasons

… does she have to abstain from sex with her husband?

It would seem that, because the pill is abortifacient, the answer would be yes.

You’ll get different responses from different people here. There is no official teaching that I know of that explictly talks about the abortificiant qualities of the pill. However it is certainly allowed to engage in sex while being treated with things which will reduce ones fertility. Since there is no official teaching with respect to the abortificient qualities it is up to people to reason for themselves (while of course giving proper weight to the opinions and arguments of those more knowledgable than themselves in this area) but essentially it will come back to the principle of double-effect and the question of whether there are ever sufficiently proportionate reasons to allow one to engage in sex when a medication will possibly be abortificiant. Some people will say this is never ok, others will say it is under certain conditions given that the chance of an abortion resulting is sufficiently slim (and certainly as I understand it the chances of an abortion with the Pill aren’t actually that high, though, I could be wrong, I haven’t looked into it particularly hard). Ultimately it will be for you to decide which opinion makes the most sense, of course always giving appropriate weight to those with more knowledge and als making an effort to ensure you aren’t just accepting one opinion because it is easier or beecause thats the answer you want to hear. If you do all that, you’ll be good, no matter what conclusion you come to. Catholics are allowed to disagree on topics that are not authoritatively decided by Rome, but they should always be humble and examine their reasons for accepting what they do to ensure they accept it out of a true desire for the truth (no matter how hard it might be) rather than simply because its the answer they want to hear. :slight_smile:

In short, no, there is no requirement to abstain. Here are a couple of posts by apologists on this forum regarding this issue:



It should be noted that there are opposing views and not all Catholic moral theologians agree on this. But there is no Church teaching that abstinence is required.

Under the principle of the double effect, I could see how failing to abstain would be permissible. Namely, if she is taking the pill solely for medical purposes and not at all for the contraceptive effect, she could still engage in the marital privilege, as she does not positively will that a child not be conceived (this being merely the unintended side effect of the medical consumption of the pill). However, anyone facing this problem should consult a priest and give him all the information he requires to judge if this principle applies to a given case. Taking contraceptives for the purpose of preventing conception is sufficiently grave matter to constitute a mortal sin. Only with a priest’s dispensation for a purely medical reason should it ever be used.

In Christo et Maria

I was talking with my husband about the idea of double effect for the pill after another thread and he disagreed. He was of the opinion, that the pill for therapeutic means is acceptable because of the totality of the body, not double effect.


Could you explain what is meant by “totality of the body”?

I agree with you that consulting a priest is a good idea.

And, of course, the woman needs to work closely with her doctor (hopefully, a prolife doctor).

But it’s important to understand the moral reasoning involved.

Would the intended good outweigh the risk of a miscarriage? The miscarriage would be unintended but nevertheless “foreseeable” given that the pill can be an abortifacient.

Also, there may be alternative treatments that don’t carry this risk.


I don’t agree with this. If it’s a medical decision, it’s a medical decision. A priest does not have the knowledge to pronounce on a medical issue.

It’s already been agreed that the Pill can be taken for medical reasons (see Humanae Vitae). so why would a dispensation be required?

I know people talk about double effect, consulting priests, doctors etc.

If I knew there would be a chance that I would conceive a child who could not be implanted, I would either not take it or abstain.

I would not want to constantly wonder.

Could I get a quote or cite to a specific section?

Just curious, but would you also counsel a woman who frequently miscarries to abstain out of a fear that the child might miscarry?

Because the question of this thread is not whether or not to take the pill, but whether or not it is ok to take the pill while at the same time engaging in relations. That is a moral question, not a medical one.

See above, this poster was not answering your question.

I found a very similar thread from last year:



There’s a very similar thread from last year:


Ooops! There’s a similar open thread on this topic from last year:


This old thread is not limited to the situation of a married woman taking the pill but does address that issue as well.

What are the protocols here? If someone posts to the 2011 thread, then two similar threads would be going on at the same time. :confused:

A woman who frequently miscarries has to make a prudential judgement about the possibility of going through that experience. She can use NFP if she and her spouse so choose.

I think I should have been more specific. I was thinking specificly about a woman who frequently miscarries because the embryo fails to implant. And please understand, I am not bringing this up to be argumentative or anything, but it is another interesting scenario to consider in this debate as it is so similar to what happens when the pill prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. The one is by nature, the other by medication, but the question about having relations in such a scenario seems to apply to both.

Is this really analogous?

In the case of frequent miscarriages, it’s still a natural process, i.e., no outside intervention.

With the pill, there is a deliberate intervention in a natural process, an intervention known in advance to be abortifacient (on occasion).

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