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The Morning-After Pill Word Game

Brian Fisher | Human Coalition | Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Morning-After Pill Word Game

The FDA approved the sale of Plan B, the so-called “morning-after pill,” over the counter to girls as young as 15 years old last week. Somehow lost in this news coverage, however, is the fact that Plan B can cause abortions.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., touted this decision to the Associated Press, claiming Plan B is a “safe and effective method of preventing unintended pregnancies.” The Associated Press report goes on to say:

“If a woman already is pregnant, the morning-after pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg. According to the medical definition, pregnancy doesn't begin until a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of the uterus. Still, some critics say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it may also be able to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, a contention that many scientists — and Korman, in his ruling — said has been discredited.”

So which is it? Does the morning-after pill end a pregnancy or not?

Herein lies the problem – there are multiple opinions about when pregnancy begins.

A quick biology refresher: 

Conception is the point in time when the sperm fertilizes the egg, and is the point at which new life begins. The sex and genetic code of the new human being are determined at conception and very rapid cell replication and specialization begin. She has just begun her life journey.

Once fertilization occurs, the zygote, or fertilized egg, moves toward, and eventually embeds itself into, the uterine wall; a process called implantation. The journey from fertilization to implantation can take about a week.

So when does pregnancy start? At conception? At fertilization? Or some other date such as the end of the last period?

Though the AP says that the medical definition of pregnancy states that it doesn’t begin until a fertilized egg implants into the wall of the uterus, that is not the traditional definition, nor do doctors always agree.

WebMD considers conception and the start of pregnancy to be the same thing. And a recent Reuters article claims there is substantial confusion, even among doctors:

"Most of the polled obstetrician-gynecologists believe pregnancy begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg. But a minority say it doesn't begin until a week later when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus -- the definition given by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG)."

Not surprisingly, a quick survey of the Plan B’s official website reveals that the drug manufacturer uses implantation as the start date of pregnancy. This is why it can claim that the drug is “not effective at terminating an existing pregnancy.” If pregnancy starts at implantation, any interruption in the process prior to that doesn’t terminate the pregnancy.

But what if pregnancy begins at conception? Here we run into trouble, because Plan B’s site notes, “Emergency contraceptive pills are not effective if a woman is already pregnant [again, based on the definition of pregnancy]. Plan B One-Step is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation… (italics mine).

If the drug inhibits implantation and we define pregnancy as starting at conception, then the drug obviously ends a pregnancy.

So which is it? If we say pregnancy begins at conception, Plan B can cause abortions. If pregnancy starts at implantation, Plan B claims it doesn’t end the pregnancy.

The answer?

It doesn’t matter. The use of the term “pregnancy” is in itself misleading. We don’t determine whether an abortion occurs based on the start date of pregnancy. We determine it based on when life begins.

If pregnancy starts at conception, it happens to coincide with when life begins. If pregnancy starts at implantation, it happens to occur a week after conception. Either way, life begins at conception. A unique human being miraculously comes into existence at that moment, with a complete genetic code and the internal instructions necessary to continue onto older stages of maturity.

Can Plan B cause abortions? Yes, and while the product’s site doesn’t admit it in so many words, it confirms it prevents implantation. And by impeding implantation, the morning-after pill causes the death of the unborn human being who came into existence at conception.

And 15-year-old girls will soon be able to pick it up off the shelf at their local Wal-Mart.

Brian Fisher is president and co-founder of Online for Lifea 501(c)(3) nonprofit outreach that uses new and emerging strategies to save the lives of innocent, unborn babies and families from abortion, by coming alongside women and families in crisis and providing the option to connect them with local, life-affirming organizations where they receive compassion, grace, and comprehensive information. 

Publication date: May 8, 2013

The Morning-After Pill Word Game