As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers approving the over-the-counter sale of an emergency contraceptive known as "the morning-after pill," pro-life and pro-family advocates warn that making the drug available without a prescription will have devastating consequences.
In a Tuesday hearing, the FDA heard advice from a panel of 28 gynecologists and pharmacists on whether the agency should approve the over-the-counter (OTC) sale of Plan B, a morning-after pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Since Plan B is most effective if taken within 24 hours, its proponents contend that it should be available without a prescription to give women faster, easier access to it.
The majority of the panelists said the powerful contraceptive is safe and women and girls could figure out for themselves if and when they should take it. The panel voted overwhelmingly (23-4) that the morning-after pill should be approved for sale without a prescription.
After discussing medical and scientific issues, the FDA opened the meeting to the public, and several speakers raised concerns. About two-thirds of them, including several from the National Organization for Women, favored making Plan B a nonprescription drug. But some opponents questioned the pill's safety and its potential effect on abstinence rates and other contraceptive use. And others brought up ethical issues, including whether the way the drug works, whether by preventing ovulation or implantation, would be tantamount to abortion.
The Dangers of Plan B
Testifying against the plan to make the morning-after pill a nonprescription drug was American Life League director Judie Brown. She insists that Plan B is dangerous and that the multi-pill regimen takes the life of a newly conceived baby. The pro-life advocate feels the FDA should never have approved the morning-after pill in the first place. "Our federal government should never sanction abortion in any form," Brown says, "whether the means of death are chemical or surgical."
In addition to Plan B's potential abortion-producing effect, Brown says it poses serious health risks to the woman or girl taking it as directed. As she testified at the hearing, the drug contains a chemical that can contribute to heart problems, circulatory problems, blood clots, ectopic pregnancies, and other serious and life-threatening problems.
Brown also pointed out that doctors ordinarily take a complete medical history of a patient before dispensing birth-control pills because prescribing them can be dangerous or lethal without access to that information -- a safeguard that would be removed if Plan B is given over-the-counter status.
Another concern is that having such ready access to Plan B would make it possible for minors to purchase the dangerous drug and take it without their parents' knowledge or consent. Brown says parents should be the ones to decide what type of drugs their children will take and when. "To further erode this natural parental role in our society is to drive another nail into the family coffin," she says.
The Push from Pro-Abortion Forces
The FDA does not have to follow the recommendation of the panel, but Brown and other pro-life advocates are concerned that the federal agency is being pushed in that direction by some powerful forces.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins suspects that the nation's largest abortion-provider is among these forces. "Only an adherence to a pro-abortion ideology would explain any decision to make the morning-after pill as easy as baby aspirin for uninformed young girls to purchase," he says.
FRC's president asserts that in the Plan B debate, "just as in the swift and politically-motivated approval of the abortion drug RU-486, the FDA has paid more attention to Planned Parenthood than to the real needs of American women and girls."
Perkins hopes the FDA will reverse its course and keep the morning-after pill off pharmacy shelves. "The FDA must put the safety of American women and girls above the wishes of the pro-abortion lobby. They must not allow this drug to go over-the-counter," he says.
Brown suggests that some of the support for the over-the-counter sale of Plan B is the result of an uninformed public. But she doubts that the truth about the medically documented dangers of the morning-after pill and other contraceptives will be widely disseminated because that news is not considered "politically correct."
In fact, ALL's director is predicting the media will try to bury recent warnings regarding the use of birth-control pills. A new medical report has revealed that women on birth control pills are at risk of developing dangerous blood clots during extended airline flights.
Brown says the news is not surprising. "There has never been any doubt in the minds of honest people that the pill was very dangerous for women" she says, "because any time you have a female body producing its own hormones, and then additional hormones of an artificial nature are added, there are bound to be problems.
According to Brown, the media has a history of ignoring information that is not considered politically correct. "I think this latest study is just another example of the truth not being told," she says.
In the past, Brown has been among those pro-life activists who chastised the media for not reporting other important stories such as the medically documented link between breast cancer and abortion. She says such oversights are no accident.
"Of course the media is culpable," Brown says, "because the information isn't under a rock somewhere, difficult to find. There are plenty of very credible, scientific pro-life websites today. The problem is not that the correct information is not available. It's that reporters choose not to report on it."
American Life League (http://www.all.org)
© 2003 Agape Press.