Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Morning-After Pill Is Not Abortion

The New York Times has a long article on whether the morning-after pill "kills babies" (in forced-birth jargon) or not.   In other words, can the pill prevent a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterine lining?  Because that would be murder in the Brave New No Abortions World.

And the conclusion?  It is becoming pretty clear that the morning-after pill does not prevent implantation of fertilized egg:
Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites.
Such descriptions have become kindling in the fiery debate over abortion and contraception.
Based on the belief that a fertilized egg is a person, some religious groups and conservative politicians say disrupting a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus is abortion, “the moral equivalent of homicide,” as Dr. Donna Harrison, who directs research for the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, put it. Mitt Romney recently called emergency contraceptives “abortive pills.” And two former Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have made similar statements.
But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.

The article cites several studies:

Experts say implantation was likely placed on the label partly because daily birth control pills, some of which contain Plan B’s active ingredient, appear to alter the endometrium, the lining of the uterus into which fertilized eggs implant. Altering the endometrium has not been proven to interfere with implantation. But in any case, scientists say that unlike the accumulating doses of daily birth control pills, the one-shot dose in morning-after pills does not have time to affect the uterine lining.
“It takes time for an endometrium to change, for its cells to divide,” said Susan Wood, a biochemist who, shortly after Plan B’s approval became the F.D.A.’s top women’s health official and later resigned, frustrated with the delay in making the pill available without prescription.
Implantation also likely wound up on the label because of what Dr. Gemzell-Danielsson called wishful thinking by some scientists, who thought that if it could also block implantation, it would be even better at preventing pregnancy.
By 2002, studies produced evidence that Plan B did not interrupt implantation.
Abortion opponents were also becoming more vocal about emergency contraception. In 2005-6, when the F.D.A. reviewed Plan B, making it available without prescription for ages 17 and over, some opponents said it was an abortion-inducing drug. Plan B’s maker again asked that implantation be removed from the label.
Addressing the issue in a 2005 memorandum, Dr. Steven Galson, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, wrote that studies “conclusively demonstrate” that Plan B’s ability to block ovulation, is “responsible for most, if not all, instances in which emergency contraception prevents pregnancy.” But he also said that studies at that time could not exclude the possibility the pills impeded implantation “in a small percentage of women.” He declined a request to be interviewed.
By 2007, scientific consensus was building that morning-after pills did not block implantation. In one study using fertilized eggs that would have been discarded from fertility clinics, Dr. Gemzell-Danielsson found that adding Plan B in a dish did not prevent them from attaching to cells that line the uterus.
Later, in 2007, 2009 and 2010, researchers in Australia and Chile gave Plan B to women after determining with hormone tests which women had ovulated and which had not.
None who took the drug before ovulation became pregnant, underscoring how Plan B delays ovulation. Women who had ovulated became pregnant at the same rate as if they had taken no drug at all. In those cases, there were no difficulties with implantation, said one of the researchers, Gabriela Noé, at the Instituto Chileno de Medicina Reproductiva in Santiago. Dr. Blithe of the N.I.H., said, “No one can say that it works to inhibit implantation based on these data.”

Here's the question:  Will those labels inside the morning-after pill boxes be changed or not?  And if they won't be changed, why not?  Could it be ---  hmm  --- ideological considerations?

Speaking of those:
Critics said they wondered if scientists and government agencies were debunking an implantation effect because they support abortion rights. Jonathan Imbody, vice president of government relations for the Christian Medical Association, wrote on, that the fact sheets contradict Plan B’s abortion-inducing nature and raise questions about “whether ideological considerations are driving these decisions.”

Funny, that.   I happen to think that  "ideological considerations" are certainly driving the opposition to these decisions and "ideological considerations" are at the bottom of the abortion-causes-breast-cancer hoax!  I did lots of research on the breast-cancer-hoax and the well-done studies on that are crystal-clear in disproving a causative link from abortion to increased rates of breast cancer.

Yet in some US states women who seek abortions must be told about a possible breast cancer risk.  And in at least one case a rape victim was denied access to the morning-after pill in one hospital because of beliefs driven by the idea that  the pill prevents implantation of the fertilized eggs.

Now that's what I call "ideological considerations" driving decisions, even when the scientific data proves otherwise!