‘Emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion’ pill use doesn’t lower abor­tion rates, study finds

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ch­eryl Wet­zstein

Sex­u­ally ac­tive women are more likely to use “emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion” (EC) pills if they can eas­ily get them, but there is no ev­i­dence that wide­spread use of the pills low­ers preg­nancy or abor­tion rates, re­searchers say in a new re­port.

A re­view of 23 stud­ies on EC “demon­strate[s] con­vinc­ingly that great­er­ac­cess[tothep­ills]in­creases use,” Dr. El­iz­a­beth G. Ray­mond, JamesTrus­sel­landChelseaB.Polis said in their ar­ti­cle in this month’s is­sue of Ob­stet­rics & Gy­ne­col­ogy.

But pre­dic­tions that eas­ier ac­cess to EC would pro­duce “a di­rect, sub­stan­tial im­pact [. . . ] may have been overly op­ti­mistic,” they wrote, call­ing for more re­search “to ex­plain this find­ing.”

“To date, no study has shown that in­creased ac­cess to this method re­duces un­in­tended preg­nancy or abor­tion rates,” the au­thors con­cluded, adding that while some of the 23 stud­ies taken in­di­vid­u­ally have de­fi­cien­cies, “the con­sis­tency of their pri­mary find­ings is hard to ig­nore.”

Theben­e­fit­sofwidespreaduseof EC have been touted for years by its sup­port­ers. Ad­vo­cates for Youth, for in­stance, has cited stud­ies pre­dict­ing that if women — es­pe­cially teens — could “back up their birth con­trol” with EC, the num­ber of un- wanted preg­nan­cies could be cut in half and 70 per­cent of abor­tions could be pre­vented. In 2005, re­searchers at the Guttmacher In­sti­tute, the re­search arm of Planned Par­ent­hood, is­sued a re­port sug­gest­ing that EC alone pre­vented 51,000 abor­tions in 2000.

But EC op­po­nents said the new Ob­stet­rics & Gy­ne­col­ogy ar­ti­cle is just the latest ex­am­ple of overblown claims about EC’s ben­e­fits.

Mr. Trus­sell has for years “harshly crit­i­cized” the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) for “al­low­ing pol­i­tics to trump science,” said Wendy Wright, pres­i­dent of Con­cerned Women for Amer­ica. “Now we will see if ide­ol­ogy and abor­tion pol­i­tics will trump science.”

In Au­gust, af­ter a pro­tracted bat­tle, the FDA ap­proved Plan B, the na­tion’s only EC prod­uct, for adult­sonly pur­chase in re­tail stores with phar­ma­cists. Girls age 17 and younger still must have a pre­scrip­tion to buy Plan B, which is man­u­fac­tured by Barr Lab­o­ra­to­ries.

Plan B is a set of birth-con­trol pills in­tended to be taken by women within 72 hours of sex­ual in­ter­course. EC pre­vents preg­nancy by pre­vent­ing ovu­la­tion, pre­vent­ing fer­til­iza­tion of the egg or pre­vent­ing im­plan­ta­tion of the fer­til­ized egg in the womb.

Some pro-life ac­tivists op­pose EC be­cause they say life be­gins at con­cep­tion, and since EC can pre- vent im­plan­ta­tion, it could be an abor­ti­fa­cient. Pro-EC ac­tivists counter that preg­nancy starts with im­plan­ta­tion and EC can­not be an abor­ti­fa­cient be­cause it doesn’t af­fect im­planted em­bryos.

In their new study, Mr. Trus­sell and his col­leagues found that women who used EC con­tra­cep­tion were more likely to be­come se­ri­ous about us­ing re­li­able birth con­trol.

“Ul­ti­mately,” they wrote, “emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion may con­trib­ute its great­est pub­lic health ben­e­fit in­di­rectly” by prod­ding women “to adopt a more ef­fec­tive con­tra­cep­tive method” or use their cur­rent method “more cor­rectly and con­sis­tently.”

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