|EMERGENCY BIRTH CONTROL
Should "morning after" pills be available without a prescription?
in this forum:
Would there be a problem with medications that conflict with emergency contraception pills? What precautions are there to make sure the medication isn't abused. Is there demographic data on who uses this pilot project.
December 29, 1997
A report on the remarkable changes in reproductive technology .
January 22, 1997
Today marks the 24th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in Roe V. Wade.
September 19, 1996
The FDA has tentatively approved U.S. sales of the French abortion drug, RU486 .
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of health.
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
The Emergency Contraception Website
A question from Arnagretta of Sydney, Australia:
As an Australian, I recently had a conversation which someone from Ireland - I had never realized that there was an ethical issue with drugs that prevent implantation of a fertilized embryo. Should religion or cultural values be a part of the discussion with a doctor or pharmacist before dispensing the morning after pill?
Dr. Tom Norris, Associate Dean and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, answers:
Perhaps. Avoiding pregnancy is a serious issue and is viewed differently by various religions and cultures. It would be wise to carefully consider your religious and ethical beliefs before taking medication to prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum. This consideration might be done with a pharmacist or a physician, but might also require other input.
Jane Hutchings, Director of the Emergency Contraception Pilot Project, answers:
Contraceptive choice is a personal decision. All women who contemplate using emergency contraceptive pills need to understand the various mechanisms by which the pills are known or theorized to act. Only after being provided with this information can a woman make an informed decision that is consistent with her religious and cultural beliefs. In the pilot project, pharmacists counsel women on emergency contraceptive use including all possible mechanisms of action, and women sign informed consent, prior to receiving the emergency contraceptive pills.
Currently available emergency contraceptive pills are regular birth control pills taken in higher doses and they work in essentially the same way as daily birth control pills. While all mechanisms of action of emergency contraceptive pills have not been clearly established, the balance of evidence suggests that they work mainly by inhibiting or delaying ovulation. It has also been suggested that emergency contraceptive pills alter the endometrium, however, the study findings are mixed on whether these effects are sufficient to prevent implantation. Emergency contraceptive pills may prevent fertilization or effect the transport of sperm or ova, but no data exist regarding these possible mechanisms. It is important to note that emergency contraceptive pills will not interrupt an established pregnancy.