The Back Alley Pill

The Back Alley Pill

Catholic World NewsNews Feature

 April 05, 2004

Ostensibly, the main argument for legal abortion over the past 35 years or so has been to rescue women from the horrors of resorting to "back-alley" abortions. Of course, pro-lifers reject this argument claiming there is no such thing as "safe" abortion even when it is legal under civil codes. It is fatal for the child involved one hundred percent of the time--a fact most abortion proponents refuse to deal with. Some, if they do acknowledge the humanity of the child at all will flatly state they do not care--the woman is more important.

Pro-lifers also argue that abortion has terrible after-effects on the woman as well. Abortion proponents often choose to be in denial of these as well, not only the well documented physical effects--there is no way abortion is safer than normally carrying a child to term--but also the more subtle--at first anyway--emotional and psychological effects which can ruin a woman's life.

Pro-lifers would also argue that there is enough love to go around, that a woman need not be abandoned or alone in her predicament, but that mother and child can be welcomed, cared for, and loved. The heroic work of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers bears this out. It may not always be easy but I have never heard of a woman being sorry she chose life, while the same cannot be said of women who chose abortion.

Now, from those who brought us "safe, legal" ways to disinvite a child into the world comes a new innovation that hopes to move the back alley as close as the local drug store and into a woman's own bathroom.

Steve Mosher of thePopulation Research Institute(PRI) of Front Royal, Virginia, reports in the group's weekly briefings of March 5 and 12: "This May, the FDA is expected to either approve or disapprove over-the-counter availability of so-called 'emergency contraception' --the morning-after pill."

On March 5 he reported on the violent dangers this would present to adolescent girls. On March 12 he elaborated on the dangers this would pose to women in general.

This drug bears the almost tongue-in-cheek commercial name "Plan B."

As with legal abortion, lawmakers are overlooking the role the law has in society as teacher. How many people, especially adolescent girls, are inclined to think, "It must be okay because it's legal. They wouldn't legalize it weren't safe would they?"

Mosher reports, "The makers and promoters of 'Plan B' see vast profits from teen consumers if over-the-counter approval is given by the FDA. The promotion of the drug to adolescents has involved dangerous trials, which have exposed the teen subjects involved to serious health risks. Approval of over-the-counter emergency contraception would expose the entire adolescent population to these same risks, which have been ignored by its promoters."

Teenage human guinea pigs

The report documents tests being done on actual young girls involved in sexual activity: "The applicant for FDA approval of over-the-counter emergency contraception, Women's Capital Corporation/Barr Laboratories, has funded several studies intended to test Plan B on adolescent girls 14 to 16 years of age. These young teenage girls, in the name of this science, had engaged in 'unprotected sexual intercourse.' These studies were conducted without consideration of relevant health risks to adolescents, such as irregular menstrual cycles, despite recognition of the hormonal and physiological immaturity of teenaged girls. Also absent were proper supervision and counseling, parental consent or notification, assurances that the teens studied had not been sexually violated, and assurances that teens took the pill within a prescribed time period."

The report goes on: "The risks of emergency contraception to adolescents have never been adequately studied. To gauge the level of risk that the drug poses to teens, one need only to consider the damage caused by Norplant. This progestin-only hormonal contraceptive--the same active ingredient as Plan B--is no longer available for use in America because it is so dangerous. Known risks include significant weight gain, ovarian cyst enlargement, gall-bladder disease, high blood pressure, and respiratory disorders.

"Among teenagers, some of these common side effects could result in increased rates of bulimia, anorexia, or clinical depression. Also, an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy has been associated with use of Plan B-type emergency contraception.

"Since the drug precludes parental involvement, it is likely that teenage girls who buy Plan B at the drugstore then experience abdominal pain may not confide in parents so that a physician could diagnose if a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy had occurred. Over-the-counter approval would mean that young people would be free to purchase and use (abuse) this powerful hormone without supervision or follow up."

Increase in sexually transmitted diseases and violence towards women

Mosher reports, "If over-the-counter availability of this drug is approved, we may also expect that rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teens will skyrocket. Adolescents age 15-19 currently represent 46 percent of all cases of Chlamydia in the US. Moreover, 1 in 4 sexually active teenagers contract an STD at some point. HIV/AIDS is a particular concern. Currently, girls and young women acquire HIV an average of 10 years earlier than young men. In Washington State, and in Sweden, where emergency contraception has been made widely available, rates of STD infection have been skyrocketing since the drug was introduced.

We can also expect an increase in the rates of sexual violence committed against adolescent girls. The easy availability of this drug over-the-counter will make it more difficult for teenage girls to resist pressure to have sex, and will trivialize the act of rape."

Finally, the report concludes, "Over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill will lead to an increase in the pregnancy rate among teenagers. Studies have shown that increased rates of pregnancy occur among teens with increased use of 'emergency contraception.' Another showed that teenagers whose pregnancies ended in induced abortion were more likely to have used the drug before conception, and that teens who use the drug were more willing to engage in 'risk-taking' behavior.

For the sake of the health and well-being of all women, but especially adolescents, the FDA should not approve the over-the-counter 'morning after pill.'"

Contact information to urge defeat of over-the-counter approval of "Plan B" may be found on PRI's websitehereor one may contact the FDA directly here:FDA Website Feedback Form.

For another look at the issues involved in the FDA's decision whether to make morning-after pills available without a prescription see Kenneth Whitehead's essay from the February 2004 issue of Catholic World Report:"Will the White House Take a Stand?"