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Emergency contraception (a.k.a. EC, ECP, "Morning After" Pill, MAP)

Developments during 2005

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Developments during 2005:

bullet 2005-MAR-17: Nominee for FDA commissioner indicates relaxation of FDS rules: During his confirmation hearing, acting FDA Commissioner Lester M. Crawford indicated that the agency is close to reaching a decision that would allow women to purchase Plan B, an emergency contraception, without a prescription. He said "The science part is generally done. We're just now down to what the label will look [like]. This is going to be a very unusual sort of approval." This is a controversial decision. According to the Washington Post: "FDA staff members and an advisory panel of outside experts have strongly endorsed the proposal to make emergency contraception more easily available -- in part as a way to reduce the number of abortions -- but the agency turned down the first application last year. Two months ago it did not meet its deadline for ruling on a revised application. Conservative members of Congress have lobbied President Bush to reject the proposal, submitted by Barr Laboratories, because of concerns that it could lead to greater promiscuity among teenagers." 1


bullet 2005-MAR-21: Wisconsin lawmaker wants to prohibit access to EC by university students: Representative Daniel LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) of the Wisconsin legislature is drafting a bill which would prohibit clinics serving University of Wisconsin campuses from providing students with emergency contraception. Since EC is simply a multiple dose of ordinary contraceptives, birth control pills would also be prohibited by his bill. He was outraged when he read the ads that University Health Services -- the clinic which serves University of Wisconsin at Madison students -- had taken out in the two campus newspapers. They recommend that students protect their skin from excessive sunlight, limit their intake of alcohol, and practice safe-sex. They also recommended that female students get advance emergency contraceptive prescriptions before leaving town for spring break.  LeMahieu believes that the ads encourage reckless behavior with an "it's OK because everybody does it" attitude. [That ad told them] 'We expect you to be irresponsible on spring break. So, come to us and we'll help you be prepared and we'll help you plan ahead.' That's the wrong message to send to our young people."

Representative Therese Berceau, (D-Madison) responded by saying: "This is what I'm now calling the 'stork theory of reproduction' that the Republicans are pushing. They would prefer to believe that if we just tell people not to have sex, they won't have sex. And maybe people will then also believe that babies come from the stork."

Kathleen Poi, the clinic's executive director, said: "These are the types of ads that we've done for a number of years to get students to think about having a safe and relatively healthy spring break." She added that the information on EC simply acknowledges that accidents can happen. "When a student is here in Madison, they know what their resources are. So if, on Saturday night, the condom breaks, on Sunday they can call and get a prescription for emergency contraception. When they're in Florida, and that same thing happens, they can't." 2 More info


bullet 2005-APR-05: CO: Governor Owens vetoes emergency contraceptive bill: Governor Bill Owens vetoed House Bill 05-1042. Titled "Concerning the Availability of Emergency Contraception to a Survivor of a Sexual Assault," it would have required all hospitals in the state to inform female rape victims of the availability of emergency contraception (EC). Owens vetoed the bill because it does not require hospitals to explain a "full, balanced and detailed array of information" about all of a rape victim's options. This would presumably include telling the woman that EC occasionally can prevent an embryo from implanting itself in the wall of the uterus. Most pro-lifers believe that human personhood starts at conception; many believe that EC can be an abortifacient. Also, it does not specifically protect the right of institutions to refuse to give the woman emergency contraception. Finally, it would force some, presumably religiously based, hospitals to inform a patient of a treatment that they believe is immoral. He wrote: "This bill does not give patients all the information that they deserve, nor does it safeguard basic freedom of conscience. Accordingly, I have vetoed this bill." 3

bullet 2005-JUN-16: NH: New law allowing pharmacists to dispense EC:  Gov. John Lynch (D) of New Hampshire signed a bill to make emergency contraceptive available at pharmacies without a doctor's prescription. New Hampshire is the seventh state to allow this. In 2004, the legislature had passed a similar bill, but the Republican governor, Craig Benson, had vetoed it. Also in 2004, a pharmacist in Laconia, NH, had refused on moral grounds to fill her prescription for EC. Another pharmacist was eventually found to help her. However, the prescription was filled after 72 hours, too late to be effective.
bullet Liza Dube, political director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire, said: "We’re looking forward to the next steps, training pharmacists and providers, educating women about the pharmacy access option and continuing the work of expanding access to reproductive health care for New Hampshire women."
bullet Wayne Goldner, a physician in Bedford said that this was: "an important day for my patients and for women across the state as it allows them to take control and prevent unintended pregnancies. As a doctor, I know how much women need direct access to emergency contraception, and now in New Hampshire, they will have it."
bullet Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack said that the law is "an affront on human life and parental rights. [It]...threatens the concept of protecting all life from conception to natural death."

bullet 2005-JUN: WI: Assembly passes bill to stop EC: The Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that would prevent the dispensing of emergency contraception to female students at the University of Wisconsin health clinics. Kathy Poi, executive director of University Health Services at UW Madison said: "This is interfering with our ability to provide a legitimate service to students who pay for our services and rely on us to provide their health care." The bill now proceeds to the Senate. More details.

bullet 2005-JUL-13: NY: Roman Catholic leaders ask governor to veto EC legislation: Edward Cardinal Eagan and seven Catholic bishops have asked Governor Pataki to veto a bill that would permit the sale of EC to prevent pregnancy. Egan called it "both morally offensive and inappropriate health policy for New York State." He believes that EC can produce a "chemical abortion." He is concerned that young women might purchase the pills repeatedly without their parents knowledge. The bishops told the governor: "It is difficult to imagine why anyone would support restricting parental rights and potentially exposing young girls to harmful and powerful medications on a repeated basis." 5

bullet 2005-JUL-25: MA: Governor Romney vetos EC legislation: Governor Mitt Romney reversed his promise given during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign by vetoing a bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature which would have made EC available without a prescription. His rationale was that although prevents ovulation and fertilization, medical researchers at the time believed that the pill might prevent a fertilized ovum from being implanted in the wall of the uterus. He sides with pro-life movement in his belief that personhood occurs at conception. It is his belief that if the pill prevented implantation, it would induce an abortion. (Medical researchers have since abandoned this belief). He wrote in the Boston Globe: "Signing such a measure into law would violate the promise I made to the citizens of Massachusetts when I ran for governor. I pledged that I would not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it."

The bill would have required emergency room physicians to offer the medication to rape victims and would have made it available without prescription from pharmacies. There are rumors that Romney, a Republican, hopes to run for the presidency in 2008. Connie Mackey, spokesperson for the Family Research Council, a Fundamentalist Christian group, said that Romney's veto was " positive...I think that pro-life politics will be very important in the next election, as they proved to be in the last election." Sen. Susan Fargo, a Democrat and Senate chairwoman of the Committee on Public Health, said: "His real motivation is his political ambitions, not the health and welfare of Massachusetts women." The legislature is expected to vote to overturn the veto. 6

bullet 2005-JUL-31: NY: Governor Pataki plans to veto EC legislation: Kevin Quinn, a spokesperson for Governor George Pataki (R) disclosed that the governor plans to veto the EC legislation passed by the legislature that would have allowed women to buy EC without a prescription. Quinn said: "Consistent with his record on women's reproductive issues, the governor plans to veto the legislation primarily because it provides no protection whatsoever for minors. If this and other flaws in the bill are addressed, and a responsible version of the bill is advanced, the governor would support it." There are rumors that Pataki, a Republican, may also try for the presidency in 2008. "Republican strategists have said Pataki's biggest hurdle if he seeks national office will likely be his past support, as governor, for abortion and gay rights as well as strict gun-control legislation." Kelli Conlin, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, commented: "It's unfortunate that as he looks to run for president he would toss away his principled legacy for sheer political expediency. It's obviously a flip-flop on his part." 7

bullet 2005-AUG-04: NY: Governor Pataki vetoes EC bill: Governor Pataki vetoed the bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense EC. He said that he was most concerned that the bill did not include clauses that would:
bullet Require women under the age of 18 to see a physician first.
bullet Limit the number of pills that a woman can obtain at one time.
bullet Prohibit men from obtaining the medication at all.
bullet Require women getting EC to receive counseling on the health risks of unprotected sex.

Apparently referring to rumors that Pataki might run for president in 2008, Kelli Conlin, executive director of the New York chapter of National Abortion Rights Action League said: "This was driven by politics." 8


bullet 2005-SEP-01: USA: FDA official resigns: An advisory committee of experts thoroughly investigated EC as an abortion preventative and recommended that it be made available on an over-the-counter basis in pharmacies. In a highly unusual move, FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford overruled the committee's decision. Dr Susan F Wood, the Assistant FDA Commissioner director of the office of women's health resigned. She said that she can no longer serve in an agency that rejects scientific and clinical evidence that has been properly evaluated. Crawford explained that the FDA was unable to develop a plan to prevent women under the age of 18 from buying the medication. 9 With the age of first sexual intercourse being 16 years of age, there would obviously be many women under the age of 18 who would wish to obtain EC quickly.

Shortly after Wood resigned, FDA head Crawford also resigned. He had only spent 18 months at the post. Planned Parenthood said that his policy on EC was to blame. Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America said that the FDA's approval of RU-486 was responsible. She said: "The FDA has reported several women have died after taking this drug and the only action the FDA took was to change the wording on the warning label. We've been very disappointed with the FDA's action on that, allowing this dangerous drug to stay on the market." (The fatality rate associated with RU-486 is about the same as the death rate caused by legal abortions, and is far lower than caused by completed pregnancies.) 10


bullet 2005-DEC-20: IL: State regulation concerning emergency contraception challenged: A regulation in the state of Illinois requires pharmacies to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception (EC). The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a Fundamentalist Christian group founded by Pat Robertson, has launched a federal lawsuit against the law on the basis that it violates a pharmacist's right to refuse medication on religious and moral grounds. Under the regulation, Illinois pharmacies that sell federally approved contraceptives have been required to fill prescription for EC "without delay" since 2005-APR. If the pharmacy does not stock EC it must order it or transfer the prescription to another pharmacy of the patient's choice. If the pharmacist has moral objections to dispensing the medication, another pharmacist must be available to fill the prescription.

Pharmacies operated by Walgreen were forced by the regulation to suspend five employees indefinitely because they refused to dispense the drugs on moral or religious grounds. The ACLJ lawsuit represents these pharmacists, two others who fear that they may also be suspended, and three Walgreen pharmacists from the St. Louis area who were "effectively fir[ed]". 11

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Marc Kaufman, "FDA Expects to East Plan B Availability," Washington Post, 2005-MAR-17, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. Phil Brinkman, "Bill will try to bar UW from giving out pills," Wisconsin State Journal, 2005-MAR-21, at: http://www.madison.com/
  3. Letter from Governor Bill Owens to the Colorado House, 2005-APR-05, at: http://www.colorado.gov/
  4. Kathy McCormack, "Morning after pill approved," Associated Press, 2005-JUN-17, at: http://www.seacoastonline.com/
  5. "Egan to gov: Veto 'morn-after' bill," New York Daily News, 2005-JUL-13, at: http://www.nydailynews.com/
  6. Theo Emery, "Mass. Emergency Contraception Bill Vetoed," Washington Post, 2005-JUL-26, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  7. Marc Humbert, "Pataki to veto 'Morning-after pill' bill," Associated Press, 2005-AUG-01, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  8. Marc Humbert, "Pataki vetoes morning-after pill bill," Associated Press, 2005-AUG-04, at: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/
  9. Gardiner Harris, "Official quits on pill delay at the F.D.A.," New York Times, 2005-SEP-01, at: http://query.nytimes.com/
  10. "FDA Commissioner Resigns Amid Controversy," Citizen Link, 2005-SEP-27, at: http://www.family.org/
  11. "Birth Control Rx Rule Challenged," Associated Press, 2005-DEC-20, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Created: 2005-MAR-21
Latest update: 2010-JUN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson
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