Should the Plan B pill be considered abortion?
- Emergency contraception also called the “Plan B” or “Morning After” pill was officially launched in 1984 in the UK. It primarily uses 'high doses of oestrogen, taken over five days, to prevent unwanted pregnancies.” Later, researchers learned a “combination of oestrogen and progestogen was safer,” and now Levonorgestrel is a progestogen-only emergency contraceptive pill.
- Before pills, contraception methods span history. Natural methods include women applying honey and acacia internally prior to intercourse to form a natural spermicide, along with many other preventions.
- In January 2021, the CDC’s National Survey of Family Growth 2017-2019 reports 24.3% of women aged 22–49 years have used emergency contraception after sex; 12.6% of those women did not have a GED (or high school diploma); 27.9% of women had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Abortion became a constitutional right for women across all 50 states following the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. Since then, there have been roughly 60 million abortions in the US.
- Gallup polling records how the country has remained narrowly divided on the subject with 48% identifying as pro-choice and 46% as pro-life in 2020.
Plan B and other emergency contraceptive pills can be considered abortion under certain circumstances. While pro-choice advocates argue that Plan B is not the same as a chemical abortion, they are similar in that they use medical interference to discontinue what could turn into a viable pregnancy. However, this does not suggest that Plan B works precisely like an abortion pill. It is true that Plan B 'won't affect an existing pregnancy,' yet this claim ignores what the drug does when an egg is fertilized.
If Plan B is successful in 'stopping the release of an egg from the ovary' entirely, then it essentially works as an oral contraceptive. However, emergency contraception can also 'inhibit implantation' after the fact by creating an environment in the womb that would be unsuitable for a developing fetus, essentially working as an abortifacient.
This raises an ethical dilemma as being similar to abortion under the belief that life begins when egg and sperm unite. Conversely, the term on the Plan B label reading 'existing pregnancy' is subjective towards the idea that pregnancy begins at implantation, rather than fertilization. Because it is difficult to determine exactly when ovulation occurs, it is impossible to prevent all potential 'effect on new human life' from any emergency contraception.
The Vatican previously noted regarding Plan B's controversy that 'it can never be legitimate to decide arbitrarily that the human individual has greater or lesser value according to its stage of development.' Morally, emergency contraception likens to abortion by 'playing God' in its capacity to 'undo' an action that could otherwise result in new life.
It's not a matter of consideration; by definition, Plan B is not abortion. This medication often called the morning-after pill, is a contraceptive, meaning it is designed and taken to prevent pregnancy. Contraceptive measures are not the same as abortive measures, which are intended to end existing pregnancies. Because it's classified as emergency contraception, Plan B is often covered by insurance, and in many states, it can even be purchased over the counter without a prescription.
According to medical organizations, pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg successfully implants in a woman's uterine lining. Research shows Plan B neither damages a fertilized egg nor prevents a fertilized zygote's implantation. In fact, Plan B can't be used to terminate a pregnancy. Rather, once pregnancy has occurred, the additional progesterone from emergency contraception would only serve to aid in supporting a developing fetus.
Nearly half of all US pregnancies are unplanned. After unprotected sex, it takes up to a week to become pregnant, so Plan B is only effective when taken within 72 hours following intercourse. When taken during this time frame, the medication delays ovulation, greatly reducing the odds of conceiving. If a pregnancy has already been established, however, it is too late for contraception. If it's been longer than 72 hours, and if a pregnancy has indeed begun, an oral medication to induce abortion does exist. Yet, it functions in an entirely different way, ending a pregnancy by means of hormonal blocking and uterine contractions. Experts consider referring to the morning after pill as abortion to be not only 'factually incorrect,' but 'downright misleading,' continuing, 'their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one.'