by Susan Wills
February 13, 2004
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was expected to rule this month on whether the morning after drug "Plan B" could be sold over-the-counter (OTC). On February 13 the FDA instead announced it would postpone its decision for 90 days to review data relating to use by girls aged 16 and 17.
Meantime, the propaganda machine rolls on. A breezy article in the Washington Post stated that if any of the "virtual salad bar" of other contraceptive methods fails, Plan B "erases the night before." Aside from that snippet of wishful thinking, the biggest whoppers in this blunder-filled article are these: Plan B does not cause abortions, and selling it over-the-counter will not put teens' health at risk.
The article claims that "conservatives" argued that the pill "was an abortive tool," but "scientists shot that premise down." But scientists never "shot down" the premise that Plan B can be abortifacient. Scientific literature "lists eleven possible modes of action for emergency contraception, seven of which can be abortifacient, that is, designed to prevent the implantation or survival of the embryo" (USCCB Comments to the FDA, www.usccb.org/ec-fda.shtml).
The article concedes that Plan B inhibits "implantation of a fertilized egg." But how deceptive to speak of a "fertilized egg" when it's a week-old human embryo who's attempting to implant! Preventing implantation causes the embryo to starve to death, a death that is just as final as that produced by an abortion weeks later. There's no confusion among scientists and doctors on this. But manufacturers and promoters of IUDs and abortifacient drugs have deliberately sown public confusion by claiming that "conception" (by implication, life itself) occurs at implantation – so they can call their products "contraceptives." Many women who would consider using birth control to prevent the onset of a new life, draw the line at killing a human life that is already a week old. Plan B promoters mislead women by implying it's all the same.
Women deserve to know the truth about Plan B. When some who've taken "morning-after" pills later learned the truth, they've written in on-line forums of "agonizing remorse" and "self-loathing," of being "scared and confused," of "suffering from ... post-abortion syndrome" due to the possibility they may have taken a child's life.
If Plan B is put on drugstore shelves, teens will be free to purchase it. Is Plan B proven safe for teens? No studies exist. What if it's used repeatedly? Both the manufacturer and the World Health Organization warn against routine use – but how would one stop a young woman from dangerous repeated use if it's available on any pharmacy shelf? Levonorgestrel-based contraceptives like Plan B carry proven risks of depression, weight gain, skin rashes/discoloration, vision problems, breast pain, loss of sexual desire, etc. Repeated use of high-dose ECs will expose teens to these risks, as well as a significantly increased risk of a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
Teens looking for Plan B are already risking exposure to STDs, many of which are incurable. Some cause infertility, cancer, and even death. Over 15 million new cases of STDs occur annually in the U.S., 3.8 million among teens. In fact, studies show rising STD rates in regions where Plan B is available OTC. Rather than encouraging promiscuity with the false promise of Plan B, we must prompt more teens to try the morally sound and far safer "Plan C" of chastity.
Susan Wills is associate director for education, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.