Introducing Plan C

Aug 20, 2010 • Fertility and Babbys, News

Most of us know Plan B, the emergency contraceptive that a woman can take up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. Later this year, we will have a plan C — ella, an emergency contraceptive that can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex.

Watson Pharmaceuticals, the drug manufacturer, announced the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of ella on Friday.

Women receiving this emergency contraceptive will need a prescription for the pill. Plan B, on the other hand, is available over the counter.

Naturally, this announcement has given rise to much controversy from anti-abortion groups, who believe life begins at conception (the moment an egg is fertilized) and that emergency contraceptives are tantamount to abortion. That’s a matter of some debate. Catherine Morgan, writing on the topic for BlogHer, writes:

It’s a misnomer that fertilization will have always taken place before the woman uses the medication […] These emergency contraceptives are blocking the sperm from fertilizing the egg in the first place, just like other methods of birth control […] In addition, even when women are trying to become pregnant, it is believed that up to 50% of fertilized eggs never make it to the implantation stage, and of the ones that do, about 30% will still be lost.

A commenter on the post brought up the possibility that emergency contraceptive may prevent a fertilize egg from becoming implanted — which is tantamount to abortion in the eyes of some anti-abortion activists. The conversation that resulted, which rarely occurs in a civilized manner, seemed to reach a conclusion on this topic, which we see fit to highlight. From Elisa Camahort:

For people who believe that a fertilized egg equals life, whether or not it implants, this pill can indeed end the existence of that fertilized egg. And shouldn’t those women know that?

So, what’s the harm in that disclaimer? The vast majority of people who would take such a pill won’t care, but perhaps some folks walk that fine line where the birth control pill is fine, but this pill crosses their personal line. All incendiary language could be avoided, and if true, it could simply say that the pill may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. If that’s true, why not divulge it and let the woman decide how comfortable she is with it?

I’m 100% pro-choice, and I’m not sure I see a problem with making it 100% clear for people who are less black and white than me.

Her example of one such disclosure is simple:

ella is thought to work for emergency contraception primarily by stopping or delaying the release of an egg from the ovary. It is possible that ella may also work by preventing attachment (implantation) to the uterus.

Naturally, such a disclaimer opens ella up to more controversy. Clearly it is easier to release contraceptive with the argument that it prevents fertilization, not implantation, but if the possibility of preventing implantation exists, it should be noted so women may choose.

We here at Sex and the 405 emphasize the last four words of the above paragraph: “so women may choose.”