Morning After Pill (Emergency Contraception)
Is it truly contraception or it is abortion? The debate over the “morning after pill” may hinge on a single definition.
The Morning After Pill (MAP) is a term coined to describe a series of pills given to women within 72 hours of sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. The pills, also referred to as “emergency contraception”, contain high concentrations of the hormones found in oral contraceptives.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved this off-label use of oral contraceptives in 1997. Currently, Plan B™ is the only product on the market that has been approved by the FDA for this purpose. Plan B™ contains a high dose of a hormone called progestin (levonorgestrel). The physiological mechanisms are not precisely known but there is general consensus in the medical community that these pills may operate in one of three ways:(1)
1. To delay or prevent ovulation (the release of the woman’s egg)
2. To prevent sperm from reaching the egg, preventing fertilization and acting as a contraceptive
3. To alter the lining of the uterus (endometrium), preventing implantation of an early embryo after fertilization
This last point is one of major debate and one that pivots on the definition of pregnancy. Traditionally, fertilization — the joining of sperm and egg to form a zygote — is recognized as the beginning of pregnancy. Biologically, fertilization marks the creation of a genetically complete human being that only needs time, nourishment, and a place to grow.(2) However, groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists define pregnancy as “beginning with the successful implantation of a fertilized egg.” (3)
Based on the fertilization definition of pregnancy, MAPs may cause an early abortion. This is information women have a right to know before taking the pills.
For more information on the possible abortifacient effect of EC, see: C. Kahlenborn, et al., “Postfertilization Effect of Hormonal Emergency Contraception,” The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, March 2002.
1 For example see “Plan B Prescribing Information”
3 Merriam-Webster’s Medical Desk Dictionary (1996) defines fertilization as “an act or process of fecundation, insemination, or impregnation” or to make pregnant.
4 “A Closer Look at Emergency Contraception” Fact Sheet, accessed on February 20, 2002 on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Well… Is Plan B Contraception OR Abortion? I already know what I believe to be true. What do you believe? What are your thoughts on the answer to this question?