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Emergency Contraception (a.k.a. EC & "Morning After" Pill)

Developments during 2003

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Developments during 2003:

bullet2003-FEB-13: USA: Bill introduced to prohibit distribution of EC: Representative Melissa Hart (R-PA) introduced the School Children Health Protection Act. It would remove federal funding of any school districts which dispense the "morning after pill" to students. She believes that "The morning-after pill is a very heavy dose of hormones. It has all kinds of side effects, some potentially very dangerous." Her views are not shared by the medical community who regard the pill as safe. Some medical groups are supporting the dispensing of EC medication by pharmacists. The bill would prohibit school nurses from dispensing EC even if the student had been raped or abused, and even if she had the permission of her parent(s) or guardian(s). 1

The implications of this bill are easy to predict. Any restriction on the distribution of EC will increase the number of teenage pregnancies, and thus the number of abortions.
bullet2003-APR-21: USA: Pharmaceutical company applies to have EC sold over the counter: Women's Capital Corporation gained FDA approval in 1999 to sell their EC -- called Plan B -- via prescription. They have filed a 15,000 page application to the FDA  citing clinical data on almost 11,000 women who have used the pill. They found that it reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89% and is most effective if used within 24 hours of unprotected sex. Kristin Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project said: "This product passes the test. It can be safe enough without a doctor's prescription. All things being equal, we expect this to be received well. Within a year is a real possibility." Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, a pro-life group said that her organization and others will lobby the FDA to prevent emergency contraceptives from selling over the counter. She said: "Plan B is one of the highly marketed products by Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups. I don't see any reason why the FDA would provide over-the-counter access to a chemical that can kill people. It's a human embryo whose life is taken by these pills....I see the FDA making an effort to act responsibly on what it does on behalf of mothers and I see the FDA, therefore, rejecting this proposal." 2
bullet2003-SEP-24: MO: Miss Missouri admits to taking emergency contraception: Amber Ethridge was one of a group of speakers at a seminar on EC sponsored by Planned Parenthood. Other speakers were an ex-state senator, a physician, and clergyperson. They stated that all women need to be aware of emergency contraception. Ethridge discussed a personal crisis in her life: "This is not abortion. I myself am a victim of rape. I chose to take the morning after pill, emergency contraception the next day so if I was to become pregnant, I would not be. That was my choice. In my mind, that's not abortion. That's me taking my own life back." On SEP-26, the fundamentalist Christian news group Covenant News covered this story in its "Abominations: and the land is defiled" section. They assigned this story the title: "Miss Missouri admits she's a fornicator and taken the morning after pill." 3
bullet2003-SEP-30: NY: EC law signed into law: After having been passed by the Assembly, the state Senate unanimously approved a bill that requires hospitals in New York state to give rape victims information about emergency contraception and to offer the medication on-site. Republican governor George Pataki signed the bill into law. It came into effect on 2003-JAN-28. Only California, New Mexico, and Washington state have similar laws in place. Pat Ernenwein, co-executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley, said that rape victims "...may not choose that option, but at least they have it.  I don't know if it's been a problem, but if there has been a problem of women experiencing delays in obtaining emergency contraception, this should take care of that." Rob Baumstone, director of corporate communications at Benedictine, a Roman Catholic hospital, said "If the woman is not pregnant, it's not a spiritual issue at that point.  I would assume that we would view it (emergency contraception for rape victims) as a preventive measure for the safety of the patient."

Family Planning Advocates of New York State
estimates that 25,000 women become pregnant in the U.S. each year as a result of rape. Up to 22,000 of those pregnancies could be prevented through if EC were provided quickly. 4

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bullet2003-DEC-17: Planned Parenthood asking that EC be made available without a prescription: The Planned Parenthood Federation of America asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make emergency contraception available without a prescription. In their submission, Planned Parenthood states that EC meets "all customary criteria for over-the-counter availability, including low toxicity, no potential for overdose or addiction, self-indication of need, uniform dosage and no important drug interactions." In a statement written by Vanessa Cullins, and released by Planned Parenthood, she asserts that: "Emergency contraception is safe and effective and is the best way to prevent unintended pregnancy in cases of contraceptive failure....We hope that ideological claims by anti-choice hardliners do not influence what should be an objective scientific process." Her organization estimates that if EC were made generally available that 1.7 million unintended pregnancies and 800,000 abortions would be prevented each year. 5 A panel of the FDA heard the request on DEC-16. With a vote of 23 to 4, they recommended that EC be reclassified as an over-the-counter medication. This will be forwarded to the FDA.

The Family Research Council has condemned this decision. They note that the FDA requires that a doctor prescribe a much lower dose of the same medication for use as birth control. They state that:

"... the dangerous effects of this drug are still largely unknown and it is grossly irresponsible for the FDA to recommend a drug that could harm millions of women and young girls. Teens in particular will likely use the drug frequently, against the drug's intended use, and without full knowledge that the drug can act as an abortifacient....Granting over-the-counter status to the morning-after pill will not only encourage risky behavior, but expose more young people to sexually transmitted diseases that can cause serious long-term health problems."

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  1. "Bill punishes districts over 'morning-after' pill: Denies federal funds when students are given hormone-laden drug," WorldNetDaily, 2003-FEB-13, at: http://wnd.com/news/article.asp
  2. Katrina Woznicki, "FDA asked to make 'morning-after' pill OTC," UPI, 2003-APR-21, at: http://www.upi.com/
  3. "Emergency Contraception Debated in Springfield," KOLR10, Springfield MO, undated, at:  http://www.kolr10.com/
  4. Jonathan Ment, "Hospitals must offer emergency contraception to rape victims," Daily Freeman, 2003-OCT-3, at: http://www.dailyfreeman.com/
  5. Susan Jones, "Emergency Contraception May Go Over-the-Counter," Crosswalk.com, undated. See: http://www.crosswalk.com/
  6. "Is the FDA Concerned about Public Health or Political Ideology?," Family Research Council, Washington UPdate, 2003-DEC-17.

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Copyright © 2003 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-MAY-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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