The Morning After Pill
3What you should know about the Morning After Pill
Take a pill and my worries are over?
After an unexpected sexual encounter, a young woman comes home, takes a pill before bed and another late the next morning. No more pregnancy. What’s the matter with this picture?
Recent developments in medicine have brought new dilemmas to the abortion debate. In December, 2003, a panel of advisors recommended to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) that the “Plan B” morning after pill be made available over the counter without prescription. The FDA generally follows these recommendations. A final decision is expected in early 2004.
If you are a sexually active woman, or are thinking about becoming sexually active, you need to educate yourself about this subject.
What is the morning after pill?
The Morning After Pill is called MAP for short. The version of MAP being considered by the FDA is called “Plan B”. It consists of 2 tablets of levonorgestrel (progestin) taken 12 hours apart, generally within 72 hours of intercourse. The Yuzpe regimen is another type of MAP that uses a combination of hormones to achieve the same effect.
What are the side effects of MAP?
Possible side effects include:
- Nausea and Vomiting (especially in the Yuzpe regimen)
- Irregular and unpredictable menstrual periods (especially on multiple uses)
- Ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, which can be life-threatening.
- Breast tenderness
What about long term effects?
In the rush to make MAP available, studies to determine the risk of long term and repeated uses were not carried out. The FDA has the responsibility of regulating these drugs and normally requires extensive testing of any drug it approves.
The chemicals used in MAPs are much like those in birth control pills. Because of known health risks, the FDA requires a doctor’s prescription for birth control pills. Yet MAP pills have a much higher dosage of these chemicals. Why shouldn’t a doctor’s prescription be required for this new high-dosage pill? Although it would be irresponsible of the FDA to make MAP an over the counter item, it remains to be seen what happens.
How does MAP work?
There are three ways that MAP can work.
- By suppressing ovulation (female egg production in the ovary)
- By thickening mucus in the cervix which blocks sperm passage
- By making the lining of the uterus hostile to implantation and causing an abortion
It is, of course, the last point that is of the highest concern, especially for people who value human life. Which leads us to a very important question:
Is MAP contraception or abortion?
Women who choose to use MAP will never know which has happened, because MAP can be both. If a woman has not yet ovulated, MAP works as a contraceptive by suppressing ovulation. However, if she has become pregnant, but the embryo has not yet implanted, the use of MAP is an abortion. Chemicals such as these that cause abortion are call “abortifacients”
When does human life begin?
Actually, it’s a simple biology question. Any good text on embryology can tell you. The sperm and ovum, neither of which can sustain life or direct growth by itself, come together at fertilization. For the first time the new life has all 46 chromosomes and all the directions (DNA) it needs for the rest of life. The sex of the baby, the color of the hair, everything is already fixed. The only additional things required before a person dies of old age is shelter, nutrition, and love.
Then when is abortion OK?
Let’s work back to the beginning. Is abortion moral and ethical during the first 3 days after birth?
Believe it or not, James Watson, who won a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, wrote this in Prism magazine at the time abortion was legalized in the United States:
“If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice only a few are given under the present system. The doctor could allow the child to die if the parents so choose…”
Of course, even the laws of our country call this the murder of an innocent human being. How about an abortion where all but the baby’s head is delivered and then the baby killed? This barbaric practice was actually legal just a short time ago. Not until November 2003, was it made illegal when President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.
Or maybe an abortion a month before birth wouldn’t be killing a human being. Or two months, or three months, or four. Maybe abortion would be OK when the baby doesn’t look so cute, or when she is very small…
The fact is, nothing is really different about the human life inside the womb when you trace growth all the way back to fertilization. Life is a continuous development from conception to birth and even until the time we die.
No contraceptive or abortifacient can protect you from the growing epidemic of STDs (sexually transmitted disease, also known as STIs, sexually transmitted infections). Neither can condoms provide complete protection from STDs or pregnancy. STD infection can occur in both males and females whether or not a condom is used. Sometimes it seems that there is a health care philosophy in America that assumes you are incapable of making choices that will completely protect you from STDs and pregnancy. Why not tell the truth about how you can be completely protected? Here it is?
The surest way to avoid pregnancy or any infection with a sexually transmitted disease is to practice sexual abstinence (abstain from any sexual contact) while single. If you marry, select a partner who is not infected with an STD and remain sexually faithful during marriage.
This is the only guaranteed, 100% effective way to avoid infection and pregnancy. All other methods leave you vulnerable. It’s your life and your decision. Make it a good one.
Sources and Resources:
1. http://www.morningafterpill.org/mapinfo1.htm, accessed 1-23-04 2. Reardon, D. “The Best Kept (ugly little) Secret in America.” The Post Abortion Review 6(4) Sept.-Dec. 1998 3. O’Rahilly R and Müller F, Human Embryology and Teratology (New York: Wile-Liss, 1994) 4. William J. Larsen, Human Embryology (New York: Churchhill Livingstone, 1997) 5. Carlson B, Human Embryology and Development Biology (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1994.)
Kahlenborn C, Stanford J. Larimore W, “Postfertilization Effect of Hormonal Emergency Contraception”, Annals of Pharmacotherapy 2002;36:465-70.
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