Emergency Contraception (a.k.a. EC & "Morning After" Pill)
Developments during the year 2004
Developments during 2004:
||2004-JAN-29: TX: Eckerd Corp. fires three pharmacists over EC:
Fox News reported that Eckerd Corp. fired three of their Denton, TX
pharmacists because they refused to fill an emergency contraception prescription
for a woman who had been raped. Gene Herr said that he and two coworkers
were fired six days after their refusal. He said that his own refusal
was based on religious grounds. He allegedly believes that the
medication could have
killed an embryo if the woman had already conceived. He had allegedly
declined to fill prescriptions for EC at least five times in the past.
However, this was the first time that a case had involved a rape victim.
He is reported as saying: "I went in the back room and briefly prayed
about it. I actually called my pastor ... and asked him what he thought
about it." The other two pharmacists who were on duty also refused
to fill the prescription. The woman was able to eventually have it filled at a
nearby pharmacy. Joan Gallagher, the vice president of
communications for Eckerd said that their employment manual says that
pharmacists are not allowed to opt out of filling prescriptions for
religious, moral or ethical reasons. Eckerd may have had inadequate
training in place. Herr said: "In my mind if I agree to work for
someone knowing that that's their policy, then I should submit to that
policy. But I didn't even know about it." 1
||2004-FEB-11: ME: State senate passes
bill to allow EC with no prescription: The Maine Senate passed a
bill that would allow specially trained pharmacists to dispense EC
without a doctor's prescription. The vote was 19 to 13. An amendment
that would have required minors to get parental consent was rejected by
a vote of 21 to 11.The next step will be for the House to debate the
issue. Rep. Nancy Sullivan, (D-Biddeford) said: "I would hope that we
will pass it." Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian
Civic League of Maine, predicted the bill's defeat in the House.
If passed into law, Maine would become the sixth state in the U.S. to
create such a law. A number of family planning and women's groups have
argued that making EC more accessible would reduce unwanted pregnancies
and thus reduce the number of abortions. The Roman Catholic Diocese of
Portland, the Christian Civic League of Maine, and other groups,
expressed concern that women might abuse the pills if they are too easy
to get. Sen. Kenneth Blais, (R-Litchfield), and some other legislators,
feel that parents should be involved in the decision to use EC. Blais
said: "As a parent, I'm very uncomfortable with relegating my
parental responsibilities to a pharmacist in this matter. What it
reflects is the movement of parental responsibility away from parents
and to the state." This comment seems to show that he misunderstands
the content of the bill. The state would not be involved in the decision
whether to use EC; this would be only by agreement between the woman and
her pharmacist. 2
||2004-MAY-6: U.S.: FDA rejects over-the-counter status for EC: The
Food and Drug Administration received a recommendation by its advisory
panel to make Barr Pharmaceuticals' Plan B available "over the counter"
without a physician's prescription. However the FDA administration
rejected the conclusion of its own panel and decided to make no changes
in the drug's distribution. Fundamentalist Christian groups such as the
Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America applauded the
decision. Many Democrats and a few Republicans criticized the FDA.
||2004-MAY-19: Canada: Health Canada proposes to make EC available
without a prescription: Women in British Columbia, Quebec and
Saskatchewan are able to purchase the emergency contraception
Levonorgestrel (Plan B) from pharmacists without a prescription. Health
Minister Pierre Pettigrew is proposing that this policy be extended
across Canada. This would make it easier for women to obtain the
medication overnight, on weekends and holidays when doctor's offices are
closed. Some responses were reported in the media:|
||Pierre Pettigrew said: "We're doing this to help women, often
younger women, who are facing difficult circumstances sometimes at a
moment when they're trying to build a life for themselves in the
||Kathleen O'Grady, spokesperson for the Canadian Women's
Health Network cited a Pittsburgh study that tracked 300 young women
between the ages of 15 and 20 for five years. The study found that they
did not use the pill as a regular form of birth control.
||Dr. Henry Morgentaler, one of Canada's best known abortion providers, suggested
that making Plan B more easily available should mean fewer women facing
unwanted pregnancies and possible abortions. He called Health Canada's
decision "a very welcome move."
||According to the Toronto Star
newspaper, "The Campaign Life Coalition said Ottawa has erred in
making a pill designed to prevent pregnancy easier to get."
Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer the Coalition said:
"The morning-after pill is a double-dose contraceptive pill,
and all of the side-effects that come with that are doubled. So it's
a very dangerous cocktail that they're proposing." (She
overlooks the fact that birth control pills are taken almost daily;
EC is taken only very rarely, when normal pregnancy prevention methods
||Marie-Jo Laroche, executive director of League for Life in
Manitoba, said: "It is highly unethical to make the morning-after
pill available in the first place, let alone without a prescription.
It may lead a women to unnormally [sic] abort an already developing
embryo. To tell women that they are contracepting [sic] when they may
actually be aborting is wrong."
||Mike McBride, a father from Calgary, AB, said: "Hey, I have
three teenage daughters. I don't want them thinking this will erase
any mistakes they make. What if they get AIDS?" Again, he may be
confusing EC with regular birth control. It is important to remember
that the "E" in "EC" stands for "Emergency."
This decision, if it is implemented as expected in the fall, will have an impact on some U.S.
women who live in border cities close to a Canadian pharmacy. 3,4
||2004-JUN-2: U.S.: FDA may still approve EC
for sale over-the-counter: Representative
James Greenwood (R-PA) met with Steven Galson, acting director of the
Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation
and Research. Greenwood indicated with confidence that the FDA would
reverse its earlier decision and make the contraceptive Plan B
available over the counter before the end of 2004. Amy Allina of the
National Women's Health Network expressed pessimism that EC would be
made available without prescription. She said: "That would a big
surprise for me. But it would be a good thing for women." Gloria
Feldt, of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "I
bet it wouldn't happen before the election. If science prevails [over
politics], it will happen sooner instead of later." 5 The largest
gynecologists' association, the American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists, estimates that the move could cut in half the 3
million U.S. unwanted pregnancies each year. The impact on abortion
would be massive.|
||2004-JUN-20: AL: Alabama
to continue distribution of EC: Public Health Department
Officials in Alabama had allowed family planning clinics to
distribute EC. The government is now under pressure to discontinue the
practice. According to Associated Press: "Christian Coalition
president John Giles says it's promoting a whole new market for young
teenagers to get pregnant and run to the Health Department to get bailed
out." State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson considers it "good
health policy." State congressman Robert Alderhold believes that the
pills cause abortions; state health officials believe that the pills
reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and thus reduce the number of
||2004-JUL-10: AL: EC
distribution causes debate: Fox
News reports that some Department of Public Health nurses are
quitting their jobs rather than going against their religious beliefs by
distributing EC to clients so that the latter will not become pregnant.
Dr. Donald Williamson of the Alabama Department of Public Health
said: "If emergency contraception were more widely available, more
than 4,000 of the 10,000 abortions in Alabama would be prevented. It
becomes good public policy." Apparently out of ignorance, Fox News accompanied
their article with a picture of a one month contraceptive pill
dispenser, rather than a picture of emergency contraception medication.
Barr Pharmaceuticals reapply: This company manufactures Plan B
emergency contraceptive pills. Their request to sell Plan B to
anyone was turned down earlier this year. They have recently reapplied
for permission to sell it to persons 16 years of age or older.
Sixteen years of age is the average age at which teens become sexually
active. Those younger than 16 would still require a prescription from a
doctor. They anticipated a decision by the FDA sometime in 2005.
"Pharmacists Fired for Refusing Morning-After Pill,"
Associated Press, 2004-FEB-11, at:
Paul Carrier, "Senate OKs sales of morning-after pill," Portland
Press Herald, 2004-FEB-12, at:
- Karen Palmer, "Morning-after contraceptive pill may be easier to
obtain," The Toronto Star, 2004-MAY-19, Page A19.
- "Morning-after pill to go behind the counter," Today's Family
News, Focus on the Family Canada, 2004-MAY-21.
Bob Cusack, "FDA likely to approve Plan B pill," The Hill,
"State to Continue Offering 'Morning After' Pills," Alabama
Associated Press, 2004-JUN-20. at:
"Ala. Morning-After Pill Policy Stirs Debate," Fox News,
Martha Irvine, "FDA weighs morning-after pill for teens," Yahoo!
News, 2004-OCT-18, at:
Copyright © 2004 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2007-MAY-25
Author: B.A. Robinson