The use of Plan B is increasing in the United States. A new report from the National Center of Health Statistics tells us that between 2006-2010 11% of sexual experienced women reported using emergency contraception versus 4.2% in 2002. About half used the morning after pill because they had a contraception failure, like a broken condom, and about half because they failed to use contraception. Increased use of the morning after pill in these exact scenarios is excellent, because this is the intended use. Preventing an unplanned pregnancy through the use of contraception is a good thing.
Except apparently for the pro-life movement. WIthin minutes of tweeting about Plan B, I received tweets with the #prolife hashtag decrying this as promoting abortion.
This misinformation and these lies have to stop.
Plan B, which is the progestin levonorgestrel, does not, and in fact can not, cause abortion. Not by any definition (i.e. not even an egg that has been fertilized one second previously). Plan B works by preventing ovulation.
Levonorgestrel is a progestin, meaning it’s a synthetic (not found in nature) hormone that is very similar to the natural hormone progesterone. Progesterone is so named because it is pro-gestational. When ovulation occurs the corpus luteum (basically, the empty egg sac left behind in the ovary) starts to produce progesterone. Lots of it. This is to support the pregnancy and promote implantation. While the progestin in the morning after pill is synthetic and not exactly identical to progesterone (see the two images of the chemical structure), it is very similar biologically and no evidence
even suggests that progestin negatively affect an embryo, either pre or post implantation. In fact, there is a wealth of evidence to say that synthetic progesterones have no negative impact on fertilization or implantation because birth control pills contain progestins. If progestins caused abortion by the “implantation definition” birth control pills would be 100% effective.
FIGO, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics has even issued a statement that levonorgestrel emergency contraceptives do not inhibit implantation.
Now Ella, the newer morning after pill could theoretically have an effect on a implantation as it is a progesterone receptor modulator, however, this theory is not supported in the literature and is a weak theory at best. If Ella were an abortifacient it would be 100% successful regardless of when it was taken during the month, and that’s not the case. Regardless, Ella wasn’t approved by the FDA until August of 2010 and didn’t become available until December 1, 2010 so the chance that any women in the study actually took Ella is slim to none. It may have been on the selves by December 2010, but it is far more expensive, requires a prescription, and even now represents only a fraction of the morning after pill market. In addition, Ella isn’t Plan B.
While it’s worthy to argue that more use of the morning after pill could represent a failure to make Plan A universally available to American women, meaning more contraceptive options, easier access, and long-acting reversible options (like IUDs) with no co-payment that is clearly not the argument of the “pro-life” movement.
So how does Plan B, a medication that can’t possibly cause abortion, get co-opted by the “pro-life” movement? And it’s not just the trolls on twitter, the American Society of Pro-Life OB/GYNs refuses to believe the science on Plan B as well. In falsely calling Plan B an abortifacient the “pro-life” movement is blatantly disregarding facts to promoting an agenda of reproductive control, because anyone who truly wanted to lower the rate of abortion would be handing out Plan B on every street corner.