The FDA’s recent approval of over-the-counter availability of Plan B emergency contraception for women 18 years and older has prompted a throng of traditionalists to rear their holier-than-thou heads and vehemently debate the decision to make ECP accessible Over-The-Counter (OTC).
Now, I’m not feminist per say. More than a sliver of my earnings go straight to Gillette, and frankly I think empowerment through picketing is about as fun (and shrewd) as getting sucked of an airplane window. But this age-old dispute of when “life” begins is as likely to lose steam as parties in the never-ending Middle East crisis are to shake hands and call it a day.
Essentially what emergency contraception does is prevent pregnancy from occurring. Though frequently dubbed “the morning-after pill,” this term is misleading as it can be taken in the 120 hour window following unprotected intercourse. ECPs, known sometimes as Plan B, are similar to oral contraceptives in that they contain hormones progestin and estrogen, though in more potent doses. The other type is progestin-only, which is more effective (lessens chances of conception by 89 percent) than the combined ECP, and the risk of incurring symptoms is reduced.
In effect, what the ECP does to prevent pregnancy is inhibit the release of an egg from the ovary, and may also prevent the fertilization of an egg (the uniting of sperm with the egg). The pill may also work by preventing it from attaching to the uterus. The ECP cannot and will not affect an existing pregnancy.
Wingnuts that hate the morning-after pill contend that its convenience of acquisition will promote promiscuity. Give me a break! That’s about as balanced reasoning as that over-the-counter Hep-C immunizations will encourage people to go out and engage in wanton behavior with the goal of contracting Hepatitis.
And to disarm the steadfast and unnecessary pro-life stance toward Plan B, let me make this perfectly clear: IT IS NOT AN ABORTION PILL. I cannot emphasize that enough. In fact, ECP operates in an opposite manner from RU-486, which depletes Progestin levels and induces menstruation and ejection of the fertilized egg.
I think any opposition to the FDA’s ruling to okay over-the-counter access of emergency contraception is founded primarily in misinformation. ECPs are safe, easy to use, self-diagnose, and successfully prevent the necessity of abortion. They certainly should not be construed as a replacement for responsible behavior or a quick-fix for a lapse in judgment. People will abuse just about anything. For example: the 3-package rule for Sudafed, a brand of cold medicine, mandated due to meth-heads swooping down upon the stock for their makeshift labs.
I’m all for the proliferation of a healthy and cost-effective alternative to abortion, and while the views of naysayers may never be quashed, it’s certainly redeeming of the FDA to at last side with the population of women who opt to defer parenthood, accidental or otherwise.