Media Watch: Time Magazine Calls Emergency Contraception “Abortion-Inducing”

Tyler LePard

An article in Time Magazine on March 30th sported some sloppy reporting on reproductive health. The article "A Pro-Choice Movement in Mexico" included a comparison of abortion policies in surrounding Latin America (emphasis mine):

Although Chile has one of South America's strictest anti-abortion codes, it's estimated to have twice as many abortions each year (200,000) as Canada - a country with twice Chile's population. (Abortion is legal in Canada.) As a result, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, late last year sanctioned the free distribution of abortion-inducing "morning-after" contraception pills at government-run hospitals.

An article in Time Magazine on March 30th sported some sloppy reporting on reproductive health. The article "A Pro-Choice Movement in Mexico" included a comparison of abortion policies in surrounding Latin America (emphasis mine):

Although Chile has one of South America's strictest anti-abortion codes, it's estimated to have twice as many abortions each year (200,000) as Canada – a country with twice Chile's population. (Abortion is legal in Canada.) As a result, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, late last year sanctioned the free distribution of abortion-inducing "morning-after" contraception pills at government-run hospitals.

This seems to be a common misconception in the media (along with mistakenly calling EC the "morning-after pill," even though it's effective for up to five days after sex), despite the fact that emergency contraception is not an abortifacient (it doesn't cause an abortion). This is not just a pro-reproductive justice theory; the American Medical Association debated this subject and rejected the idea that EC is abortifacient—they endorse EC as a method of contraception. (Of course, the anti-abortion movement is also cover for the anti-contraception movement.)

The feminist blogosphere picked up on this glaring error in Time and put out a call for a correction. Yesterday (almost two weeks after the publication date), Time corrected the offending sentence to read as follows (again the emphasis is mine):

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As a result, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, late last year sanctioned the free distribution of emergency "morning-after" contraception pills at government-run hospitals.

The Magazine also added this statement about the correction:

The original version of this story inaccurately described morning-after pills being distributed free by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as "abortion-inducing." Though pro-life advocates claim the pills effect a kind of abortion by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus in the first 72 hours after unprotected sex, the pills are more accurately considered an emergency contraception by the medical community since they technically prevent a pregnancy from occurring in the first place.

Well, it's about time they got that right.

For more information about emergency contraception, check out the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association's EC fact sheet (PDF).

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