A Plan B for Plan B

Cristina Page

Anti-contraception advocates have successfully confused emergency contraception and abortion. A bill drafted by Senators Patty Murray, Hillary Clinton, and Louise Slaughter would help clear up the misperception.

The misinformation campaign about emergency contraception (aka EC, the morning after pill, Plan B) waged by anti-contraception operatives in recent years seems to be working. Anti-contraception groups want Americans to believe that the morning after pill (EC) causes an abortion even though this contradicts all the best science on the subject. For instance, when taken by pregnant women, EC has no effect and does absolutely no harm to the pregnancy or fetus. (Here's just one perfect example of the campaigns to mislead about the morning after pill, note the official seeming website, www.morningafterpill.org. )

Still, many Americans now confuse the morning after pill with medication abortion (RU486 or, as it 's known in the US, mifeprex). Many others suspect they are being mislead and want honest information. Even the pollsters are confused.

The two pharmaceuticals actually could not be more different. EC is a progesterone while medication abortion is an anti-progesterone. Literally, the two are exactly the opposite. As a result, the mode of action of each couldn't be more different either. And, by the way, pharmacists can dispense EC (for adult women without a prescription) but pharmacists are not authorized to dispense medication abortion to women; only medical providers can. There's a reason for that. One actually causes an abortion, a procedure that requires medical supervision; the other prevents a pregnancy (and an abortion), a procedure that requires nothing but common sense.

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The campaigns to confuse the public have been so successful it has prompted action by Congressmembers. Senators Patty Murray, Hillary Clinton and Louise Slaughter have drafted a bill that will direct the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish an Emergency Contraception Public Education Program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The program would provide a description of emergency contraception and an explanation of its use, safety, efficacy and availability to nonprofit organizations, consumer groups, institutions of higher education, Federal, State, or local agencies, clinics and the media.

This is a critical bill. If opponents of contraception are able to bamboozle the public about EC, the groundwork against every other prescription contraceptive is set. They know this, so should we.

For more information on how emergency contraception works, visit the Department of Health and Human Services's related pages.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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