Should The Morning After Pill Be Available Over The Counter?

1520 words - 7 pages

Should the Morning-After Pill be Available Over-the-Counter?

Last Tuesday, advisors to the Food and Drug administration voted to make the "morning-after" pill available over-the-counter (1). The FDA has not yet acted on this recommendation (1). The morning-after pill is the vernacular term for emergency contraception, specifically, two pills with the commercial name, "Plan B", which have the ability to inhibit and, depending on one's perspective, possibly to terminate unwanted pregnancies. The FDA approved the first version of the morning-after pill for prescription use in 1998 (1). The issue today is whether it should be available without a prescription.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, the morning-after pill prevents pregnancy from occurring because it does not terminate a developing zygote implanted on the uterine wall (1). According the American Bioethics Advisory Commission, preventing a zygote from implanting in the uterine lining, is technically abortion because life and pregnancy begin with conception (2). The American Heritage dictionary defines conception as the "formation of a viable zygote by the union of the male sperm and the female ovum; fertilization" (10). . Even this definition leaves room for interpretation about whether or not a zygote is viable, but for those who believe that every fertilized human egg is a human life, the debate here is identical to the debate over whether or not surgical abortion should be legal. It is a question of how human life is defined, when it begins, and under which circumstances, if any, it is permissible to end it. In polls, most Americans have demonstrated a preference for earlier abortions over later ones (7). For those who see more shades of gray in such matters, the question becomes, is the morning-after pill a better, more humane, and safer option, than surgical abortion and particularly late-term or partial birth abortion, and if so should it be made readily available?

In many ways, the morning-after pill is a remarkable advance over previously available methods of dealing with the prospect or reality of unwanted pregnancies. In the past women had to wait weeks for the results of pregnancy tests and then weeks more until they were at stage of development when surgery was possible (7). The morning after pill has the ability to prevent women from getting pregnant in the first place and it is not invasive, which makes medical complications far less likely. Still, critics point out that no studies have yet been conducted to reveal the long-term effects of the morning-after pill on the women who use it, especially those who use it more than once (1).

Sharon Camp, president and CEO of Women's Capital Corporation, which makes the morning-after pill, claims that 48% of American Women have had at least one unplanned pregnancy, with higher rates for teenagers and women over 40 (8). . Dr. Carole Ben-Maimon, president of Barr Research, claims that 15% of women who use condoms and 8% of women who take birth control become unintentionally pregnant and over 3 million unintended pregnancies occur each year, half of which terminate in abortions (1). She says it is estimated that half of these unintended pregnancies could be prevented with the morning-after pill (1). The United States abortion rate has dropped 5% between 1996 and 2000 (7). . Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute believe that much of this drop can already be attributed to increased use of emergency contraception (7). The morning after pill is already available over-the-counter in 31 countries and 5 states (1). In the Netherlands, where it is available over-the-counter, the abortion rate...

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