By Deirdre A. McQuade
August 25, 2006
On August 24th, the Food and Drug Administration succumbed to abortion advocates and approved the sale of "Plan B" to adult women and men without a prescription. Planned Parenthood is now encouraging women to stock this "emergency contraception" in their medicine cabinet "just in case," saying it will obviously reduce the number of abortions.
But will Plan B reduce abortion rates? Is it just a contraceptive? And is pregnancy a medical emergency or a pathological condition demanding treatment? The answer to each of these, in a word, is 'no'.
Pregnancy is not an emergency. It's is a sign that the fertility systems of the man and woman are working. If some consider pregnancy pathological, the treatment for this attitude is not a pill, but a much broader cultural shift that re-associates sex with its natural consequences.
Is Plan B a contraceptive? It can be, but it can also cause an early abortion. Depending on when in her menstrual cycle a woman takes it, the drug can have any one of three effects: (a) it can have no effect because the woman is already naturally infertile three weeks out of four; (b) it can act as a contraceptive by preventing fertilization; or (c) it can cause an early abortion by preventing the embryo from implanting in her uterine lining.
Those hailing Plan B's availability say that it "prevents pregnancy" and so isn't an abortifacient. But that depends on what your definition of 'isn't' is. They define abortion as the termination of a pregnancy, and say that a woman is pregnant only after the embryo implants in her uterus.
But prior to the embryo's nesting in the womb, while still "free floating" in the woman's reproductive tract, she is already "with child." If the growing embryo is caught in the fallopian tube too long or expelled from the woman's body due to an abortifacient drug, he or she dies, whether the mother is aware of it or not. Abortion is the destruction of unborn human life, not just the interruption of pregnancy after implantation. So in addition to being a contraceptive, Plan B may cause drug-induced abortions.
Will Plan B reduce abortions generally? The answer is still no. According to research in Europe and the U.S., increased access to "emergency contraception" has a negligible effect on the rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Researchers are surprised at their own findings, as are the activists who had hoped to bolster their contraception agenda in Congress. Kirsten Moore, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Technologies, admitted: "the experts had estimated that we would see a drop by up to half in the rates of unintended pregnancy and the rates of abortion. And in fact in the real world we're not seeing that."
So "emergency contraception" is a euphemistic misnomer; and this drug will not reduce abortions. When you include the possible abortifacient effect, it may even increase them.
For more information on the USCCB's long fight against this approval, visit www.usccb.org/prolife and click on "Morning-After Pill" in the issues list.
Deirdre A. McQuade is director of planning and information, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.