NYT Debunks Morning-After Pill Myth
Last week, the New York Times published an article that corrects the established understanding of the science behind morning-after pills, which can be taken after sex to prevent pregnancy. FDA-approved labels on the boxes of morning-after pills including Plan B and Ella indicate that the pills keep fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, but the New York Times examination of scientific research on the subject shows that the pills prevent pregnancy by delaying ovulation, thereby preventing fertilization from occurring in the first place. As the New York Times reported: “After The Times asked about this issue, A.D.A.M., the firm that writes medical entries for the National Institutes of Health Web site, deleted passages suggesting emergency contraceptives could disrupt implantation.” However, the New York Times notes, “The F.D.A. declined to discuss decisions about the effect on implantation or to say whether it would consider revising labels.”
This article also has political implications; Anti-choice advocates have attacked morning-after pills by suggesting that they are “abortifacients,” based on the theory that life begins at fertilization and that morning-after pills actively prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. This new research will make this argument much more tenuous. But most importantly, misleading or incorrect information about medicine has a direct and potentially dramatic impact on women's health. Women should have access to the most up-to-date science about the medicines they take.
This research is especially timely after last week’s celebration of the 47th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case establishing that the use of birth control was protected by the right to privacy and, therefore, legal. Prior to this decision, both doctors who provided birth control and women who used it risked prosecution.
Although the criminalization of contraception use was outlawed almost half a decade ago, there is a renewed effort to roll back access to birth control. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been under criticism from the right and the left for the inclusion of birth control in a preventative women’s health package and for age requirements for emergency contraception that are potentially politically motivated. Even so, an HHS department spokesperson insisted in the New York Times article that “the public should have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information available on matters of preventative health, including contraception.”
In light of this new research, and in honor of the anniversary of Griswold, we must continue to fight for access to family planning tools for all Americans. Tell Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that you support women’s access to contraceptive coverage as part of a basic preventative care package. The public comment period is open only until June 19! Submit your comment to the HHS today.