Friday, November 17, 2006

"Plan B": Abortifacient or No?

The following is a letter I sent via email to the Washinton State Pharmaceutical Association.


I'm writing because I need your help clarifying something. As you know, there has been much discussion lately over the rules for pharmacists when filling prescriptions/requests for so-called Emergency Contraception, or Plan B, sometimes called the Morning After Pill.

The WSPA seems to have no moral objections to this drug, and does not seem to describe it anywhere as an abortifacient.

Yet it is my understanding that one of the primary means by which this drug is designed to prevent pregnancy is by preventing a fertilized egg, or zygote, from implanting in the uterus. And since the emergence of a zygote represents the moment at which a new human being comes into existence, deliberately causing this new human life to fail to achieve its natural means of sustenance and development, via implantation, would seem to be clearly intervening to end a human life.

Does the WSPA agree with this assessment, or am I in error?

Jonathan B.

I shall post their response if/when it arrives.

If you do a site search with google for the term abortifacient, one document which comes up, a PDF file called, "APhA Special Report: A Continuing Education Program for Pharmacists: Emergency Contraception: The Pharmacist's Role". In it we read:

"Misconceptions persist about how emergency contraception works, particularly the misconception that emergency contraception acts as an abortifacient."

Further, they add:

"Because emergency contraceptives act before implantation and cannot disrupt an established pregnancy, they are not considered to be abortifacients."

(Two footnotes are given here: "Glasier A. Emergency postcoital contraception. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:1058–64," and "Grimes DA. Emergency contraception—expanding opportunities for primary prevention. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:1078–9.")

And to make it clear what they believe, they add:
"Some people believe that all oral contraceptives (including those used as emergency contraceptives) are abortifacients, because they believe that pregnancy begins with the fertilization of an egg rather than with implantation of the blastocyst in the endometrium."

They cite a 1999 press release, no longer available online, from the Family Research Council. Citing a conservative public policy organization as the only source for such a widely held medical fact is disingenuous to say the least. And to lump in opposition to "emergency contraception" (which deliberately operates post-fertilization) to regular contraception (which can act post-fertilization, unknowingly to many users) hardly seems like an honest move.

Suppose we allow that a pregnancy starts with implantation, and that an abortion is the interruption of a pregnancy, the subsequent deduction that "EC" does not cause an abortion is completely beside the point. The point is:



Doug Parris said...

The abortion drug argument - that killing a person before implantation in the uterine wall is not really an abortion - is like arguing that blugeoning my mother-in-law to death on a boat in international waters is not a murder. After all, we have not yet attached our boat to a nation, yet, and it is only some form of law, contiguous with a country, that makes killing "murder." Voila! The Right to Choose one's family members! Shouldn't every in-law be a wanted in-law?

Mary E. said...

I find it strange that those of us without medical degrees or advanced education in the sciences understand more about science and putting together a rational argument than the BOP, ACOG, AMA, and UW Law department put together.

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