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

Developments during the year 2006

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Developments during 2006:

bullet2006-JAN-26: IL: Attempts to repeal emergency contraception rule: At least three bills have been introduced by Illinois lawmakers to overturn Governor Rod Blagojevitch's (D) regulation which requires pharmacies to directly or indirectly fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives. Pharmacist and Representative Ron Stephens, (R-Greenville) said: "We're not saying take it off the market. We're just saying for those pharmacists who have a religious problem with it, don't make us fill it." Blagojevich responded: "Now, I understand that several bills have been introduced that would overturn my executive order to protect women's reproductive freedoms. So let me make something else very clear - if any of those bills reach my desk, they are dead on arrival." Rep. Kurt Granberg, (D-Carlyle) who cosponsored two of the bills said: "Pharmacists weren't allowed to do what they think is right. And I don't think that's appropriate government business." Pam Sutherland of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council said: "It was comforting that the governor was there to protect women's access. I think women will be able to rest easy knowing that the governor will veto any legislation that comes to his desk." 1
bullet2006-FEB-14: MA: Pharmacy board orders Wal-Mart to honor Plan B prescriptions: Wal-Mart stores in Massachusetts in Quincy and Lynn, MA, refused to fill Plan B prescriptions to three women: Julie Battel, Dr. Rebekah Gee, and Katrina McCarty. They filed complaints with the Massachusetts Pharmacy Board against Wal-Mart for failing to stock Plan B medication. This is the only emergency contraceptive approved by the FDA.

Two weeks later, the Massachusetts Pharmacy Board ruled unanimously that Wal-Mart must honor prescriptions for emergency contraceptives. They based their decision on a state regulation requiring pharmacies to dispense "commonly prescribed medications in accordance with the usual needs of the community." Since Plan B must be taken shortly after unprotected intercourse in order to be effective, this order implies that Wal-Mart must maintain a supply of Plan B medication in their stores -- an act that the company had resisted in the past. They do not plan to appeal the ruling.

According to the New Standard News:
bulletNone of the company's 44 stores in Massachusetts stocks the medication.
bulletPlan B is only available in Wal-Mart stores in Illinois. This is because of a state law that requires pharmacies to carry EC.
bulletWal-Mart is considering changing their policy across the U.S.
bulletThey claim that they do not stock the pills because consumer demand is too low. The validity of this statement could be easily checked by Wal-Mart officials by comparing the number of EC prescriptions filled when compared to all other medications that the company does stock. It could also be checked by anyone asking a cooperative pharmacy for their experience in prescribing Plan B.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL and two large Wal-Mart watchdog organizations -- Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart -- are calling for a national push to change the company's policy. 2 Dr. Gee said:
"I'm proud to be able to tell my patients that they now can go anywhere for their prescriptions. My patients should not have to shop around." 3

NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, a group advocating access to EC and abortions were pleased with the decision, but stated that access to Plan B is a contraception issue, not one of abortion. Marie Sturgis, spokesperson for Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said that her group opposes Plan B because it's a "chemical abortion" and because its long-term health effects are unknown.

bullet2006-FEB-17: CT: Comptroller asks Wal-Mart to honor Plan B prescriptions: Apparently triggered by the Massachusetts developments, Nancy Wyman, the state comptroller of Connecticut, has asked Wal-Mart to stock emergency contraceptive in its 20 pharmacies in the state. She wrote: "I believe it is important for women to have a treatment such as Plan B available as an option if they so choose." 4 Wal-Mart spokesperson Dan Fogleman said on FEB-16 that the company is reviewing its national policy on EC. He said: "Women’s health is a priority for Wal-Mart. There’s a lot of broader considerations, but it’s something we’re giving a lot of thought to." 5
bullet2006-MAR-03: USA: Wal-Mart to stock emergency contraception: A Wal-Mart spokesperson announced that the company would start to stock EC in all its 3,700 pharmacies in the U.S. starting on MAR-20. More details.
bullet2006-JUN-12: World: Catholic News Agency (CNA) publishes misinformation: The CNA published an article about the use of EC in the Galicia region of northern Spain. Some doctors in the area are concerned that some young women are taking EC as many as seven times a month to prevent pregnancy. The article states that "The morning-after pill is equivalent to 25 regular birth control pills and its frequent use can seriously affect a woman’s health." 7 This is not accurate. According to the Feminist Women's Health Center, a morning-after pill is equivalent to from 2 to 5 of one color of pills of all of the common birth control pills; the exact number depends on the brand. The only known exception is for a very weak pill, Ovrette, of which 20 are equivalent to an EC pill. 6

One problem with publishing incorrect information of this sort is that young women will become needlessly concerned about their health if they take EC. But a more serious result may be that some women will incorrectly associate 25 of their birth control pills with one EC pill, and end up taking a massive overdose. We are not medical experts, but it is possible that If this action were repeated often enough, over a sufficiently long time, their health could be endangered.

We have sent a form to the Catholic News Agency asking that they print a prominent retraction on their web site. We have also sent an Email to LifeSite. net who provide a link to the article.

bullet2006-AUG-09: USA: Over-the-counter-sales of morning-after-pill may be implemented: Barr Laboratories and the FDA have agreed on a plan to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception. Under the new plan, women under the age of 18 would still need to provide a prescription. The pills would only be sold in pharmacies and licensed clinics. The FDA will require Barr to use different packaging for the over-the-counter and prescription sales. There is some concern that pharmacies would not stock the latter packages because most of the sales would be over-the-counter. As always, most pro-life groups oppose EC because they feel it can operate as an abortifacient. Pro-choice groups promote EC partly in order to reduce abortions. 8
bullet2006-AUG-21: USA: President supports FDA plans: Acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach testified at a U.S. Senate committee hearing during the week of AUG-13. He said that Plan B emergency contraceptive can safely be sold to adult women. On AUG-21, President Bush gave support to von Eschenbach's plan to allow sales of Plan B without a prescription to women over the age of 17. Women under the age of 18 would still require a prescription. 9

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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. Ann Sanner, "Bills address emergency contraception," Associated Press, 2006=JAN-26, at: http://www.sj-r.com/
  2. Brendan Coyne, "Activists Push Wal-Mart over 'Morning After Pill'," The New Standard, 2006-FEB-17, at: http://newstandardnews.net/
  3. "Wal-Mart Forced To Stock Contraceptive," Associated Press, 2006-FEB-14, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/
  4. "Wal-Mart May Stock 'Emergency' Contraceptives," ConsumerAffairs.com, 2006-FEB-15, at: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
  5. "Comptroller wants retailer to stock ‘morning-after’ pill," Associated Press, 2006-FEB-17, at: http://www.record-journal.com/
  6. "Emergency Contraception (also known as The "Morning After" Pill or "Plan B")," Feminist Women's Health Center, at: http://www.fwhc.org/
  7. "Morning-after pill spreading out of control in Spanish schools," Catholic News Agency, 2006-MAY-30, at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
  8. Gardiner Harris, "F.D.A. Gains Accord on Wider Sales of Next-Day Pill," The New York Times, 2006-AUG-09, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  9. "Bush indicates support for Plan B," United Press International, 2006-AUG-21, at: http://www.upi.com/

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Created: 2006-FEB-18
Latest update: 2006-AUG-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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