The Morning After Pillby The HealthCentral Editorial Team
I am a huge advocate of the morning after pill. I feel it really is one of our best options to help eliminate -- or at least reduce -- unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
The problem is that there is a great lack of understanding about how this pill works. People tend to confuse it with RU486 -- the true abortion pill. RU486 is now available in our country and it does, in fact, cause an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
While I am in favor of the law of the land and I'm glad women have choice, I am very uncomfortable with abortion. If the morning after pill worked by impairing implantation or causing an abortion, I would not be such a strong advocate of it.
It turns out that the morning after pill -- or emergency contraception -- works exactly the same way as the daily birth control pill. There is really no difference whatsoever. The morning after pill is basically a double dosage of contraception used within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. The daily contraceptive pill that many women take suppresses an egg from being released by an ovary. Hence, there can never be fertilization. However, there is a small risk that an ovulation could occur, and if it does, there is also a small risk that the pill could impede implantation of that fertilized egg.
For reasons I cannot understand, activists have chosen to attack the morning after pill form of contraception, believing that its primary mechanism is impairing implantation of a fertilized egg. This cannot be further from the truth.
If people wanted to attack emergency contraception based on its scientific mechanism of action, in order to be philosophically consistent they would also have to work to eliminate all forms of the pill and a couple of anti-inflammatory drugs -- Vioxx and Celebrex -- which also tend to have some effect on implantation.
It seems to me that if we are all interested in helping advocate on behalf of the health of our young people, we should be urging that they have this pill available, and of course that they use appropriate contraception and don't take risks. But at least they know what their options are, should a mistake occur. We should also be strongly urging adoption as an option for those who do get pregnant.
As to whether the presence of emergency contraception would increase promiscuity, there is simply no evidence of this. The American Medical Women's Association likens it to keeping a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Does the presence of a fire extinguisher mean you're going to torch your food? No, of course you're not planning to have a fire, but if you do, you're grateful that the extinguisher is there.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that educating young people about contraception methods increases their promiscuity. Rather, helping them understand themselves as sexual beings, teaching them to achieve interpersonal health, and helping them to negotiate what they want from a relationship has a much higher impact on the healthy choices they will make for the rest of their lives.