Get Real! Should I Feel Bad About Taking Plan B?

Heather Corinna

Worried about your obtaining emergency contraception in light of HHS draft regulations that would limit access to birth control? Teens have questions about EC, too. Heather Corinna explains how the medication works.

Stacey asks:

boyfriend and I have been together for about 2 months and we just
started having sex. He was my first and I am completely in love with
him. We’ve been protected for 4 of the times with a condom, but tonight
we didn’t use one. He was about to pull out right before, but he came.
I’m really scared that I could become pregnant and I know that one of
my friends has the "morning after" pill, but I feel bad taking it. I am
so worried and confused. HELP ME!

Heather replies:

Why do you feel bad about using emergency contraception?

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Just like condoms, how it works is to prevent a pregnancy, and
emergency contraceptive pills (Plan B or the Morning-After Pill) work
the exact same way any combination hormonal birth control works, it
just only needs to be taken after the fact, rather than before, and every other day like the birth control pill is taken.

People have some pretty weird ideas about emergency contraception,
but most of them aren’t based on facts. If you feel bad because you
don’t feel like you could be okay with an abortion, and think EC is
abortion, I assure you, it’s not. If a woman has already become
pregnant, emergency contraception doesn’t have the capacity of being
able to terminate that pregnancy. It’s birth control — contraception,
NOT abortion or termination. Some of why people have inaccurate ideas
about EC is because so many people are ignorant (and some try and keep
others just as ignorant) about how conception occurs, and in what
timeframe. The reason EC doesn’t work after 120 hours — and why
pregnancy can be prevented, not terminated within that time — is that
for a pregnancy to complete often takes around 4 – 7 days: it’s not
something that happens immediately, because there are many steps to
that process which require some time.

Here is the serious lowdown on EC:
if it doesn’t answer all the questions you may have about EC, all the
links within it should. If you want to know more about how pregnancy
happens, take a look at this: Where DID I Come From? A Refresher Course in Human Reproduction.

But maybe you already know all there is to know about the real way the Morning-After Pill works.

Do you have an ethical objection to any kind of birth control? If
so, it might help to know that barrier methods, like condoms, do the
same thing, even though they work in different ways: all birth control
methods prevent pregnancy. Any method of birth control — withdrawal,
which you have been using, included — disrupts some part of the
process of a possible pregnancy, be that by keeping sperm from meeting
an egg (like with condoms, withdrawal or cervical barriers), keeping an
egg from being released (like with many kinds of hormonal birth
control) or changing the uterus so that an egg is unlikely to be able
to implant (like with an IUD). Emergency contraception can also work in
any or all of these ways. If, on the other hand, you have an ethical
objection to any kind of birth control, that’s something else, but I’m
also not sure then that I understand why condoms or withdrawal have
been okay before.

Perhaps obviously, if you do have an ethical objection to
every kind of reliable birth control, then unless you want to be
pregnant and are ready to be pregnant, it’s not a good idea to be
having any kind of sex which creates a risk of pregnancy. Too,
unprotected sex also posts risks of sexually transmitted infections,
and it’s safe to say that almost everyone doesn’t want an STI.

Do you feel like at this point, it’s up to fate to decide? If that’s
the case, what I’d say to you is that unless fate is going to provide
for you and a possible kid, I’d have to question that logic, as I have
before the times when I’ve heard people voice it. First of all, fate
didn’t decide anything here: you both made the decision (presuming you
two were in agreement on this) not to use a condom. That’s you
deciding, or if you didn’t agree, your partner deciding. On top of
that, "fate" or factors out of our control may put us in certain
situations, but that doesn’t mean — especially when those situations
may result in consequences we don’t want or aren’t prepared to deal
with — that when we can have some control at some point that it’s sage
not to take it when we CAN do something to possibly create a better
outcome for ourselves and others. With pregnancy, things get even more
complicated because there’s potentially a whole new person in the mix
who we owe the kindness of being sure we can care for them —
emotionally, practically, etc. — before we make a choice to risk
bringing them into the world, you know?

No matter why you’d feel bad about using EC, if it is not the right
thing for you to possibly be pregnant right now, and/or you know that
isn’t something you want, I’d encourage you to reconsider. Abortions
are far more costly, and even being pregnant for a month or two until
we can get one tends to change our lives, temporarily and emotionally.
Legal abortion procedures are not complex procedures, nor are they
horribly painful, but they are emotionally difficult for many women and
do present some health risks which using EC does not. Suffice it to
say, having a kid is a FAR larger thing than that
in every arena of your life: for your body and health, your finances,
your interpersonal relationships, your life goals, your sexuality, your
mental health, the works. As I mentioned, it also impacts another life:
a fetus and then kid doesn’t get to make their own choices, they rely
on the soundness of the choices you make for them.

So, now it’s up to you as to what you want to do about this, and the
only thing I can encourage you to do is whatever it is that you think
is the most right for you and the whole of your life. And that’s
something only you are the expert on.

No matter what you do this time, though, if you’re going to keep
having intercourse and don’t want to become pregnant, you’re going to
need to find and agree on a reliable method of birth control, and both
commit to using it properly and consistently. We can help you figure
out what method that is here: Birth Control Bingo. We strongly discourage our users from trying to use withdrawal
as a sole method of contraception. When practiced perfectly, it does
have the capacity to be very effective, but that is ONLY for couples
where the male partner has EXCELLENT control over his ejaculation and a
lot of practice having sex to be super-familiar with his own sexual
response cycle. And for younger men, not only do they usually lack that
experience, control over ejaculation is something that younger men
simply are rarely developmentally capable of. In other words, their
bodies can prevent them from practicing it perfectly even when in their
minds, they very much want to. To give you an analogy, the birth
control pill would be a very bad choice for someone who compulsively
vomits: their bodies would keep them from being able to use the pill
properly. Make sense? Too, since you’re the one taking the big risks,
having a method which you have NO control over isn’t always so wise,
and there are a lot of other methods which you can control and which
are far more goofproof.

If you want to reduce your risks of sexually transmitted infections — especially if you are not his first, or if either of you have had any other kind of sexual partnership before this — you’ll need to practice safer sex,
including using condoms. And since it may take you a little while to
get another method of reliable birth control, sounds to me like it
might be smart to just re-commit (both of you) to condoms for now no
matter what, if you’re going to keep having sex.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”