Despite assurances that this decision will lead to a reduction in unintended pregnancies and abortions in the
Many women will bypass the sexually transmitted disease testing they would normally receive at the physician’s office. These infections, such as Chlamydia, HIV, Human Papilloma Virus and others will go undiagnosed and untreated, leading to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, or even cancer.
Women using Plan B who do conceive have at least 3 times the risk of potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. They will be taking the drug without physician follow-up. How will they know when their life may be in jeopardy from a tubal pregnancy without physician involvement? They won’t as bleeding and abdominal pain are symptoms of both a normal menstrual period and of a rupturing ectopic pregnancy.
Safety data of this medication in the pediatric and young teenage population is scarce, yet women younger than age 18 will surely obtain this drug from those over age 18, as there is no mechanism to monitor or control such activity. Male sexual predators can easily use this medication to cover their abusive and unlawful actions. Likewise, the potential exists for increased pressure on young women to become sexually active, since they may be led to believe that preventing pregnancy is as simple as taking a pill after intercourse. For many, such sexual exploitation will not be in their best health interest.
The FDA labeling states that the medication will not abort an implanted pregnancy, but allows that it may stop implantation of a fertilized egg (an embryo). We object to this deceptive doublespeak. Terminating a human embryo is abortion, whether before or after its implantation into the uterus. Adequate informed consent dictates that the woman using this medication be plainly informed of this abortifacient potential.
Although short-term studies suggest that the ready availability of “emergency contraception” does not alter women’s use of standard contraception, it is possible that increasing familiarity with this medication over time may lead to more reliance on it by some women for their general contraceptive needs. Thus, independent of physician monitoring, this medication may be used repeatedly and frequently by many women. There are no studies addressing long term health effects of this type of use.
In light of these concerns, the FDA decision granting over-the-counter status for Plan B falls short of common sense, sound medical judgment, and good public health policy.
Elizabeth Shadigian, M.D. President, American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists for the AAPLOG Board