Emergency Contraception Fails To Reduce Pregnancy Rates

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

In spite of the trendy commercials encouraging women to keep a supply of emergency contraception on hand, a new study has found that ready availability of the pills does nothing to reduce pregnancy rates.

London’s Telegraph.co.uk is reporting that a review of 11 trials involving 7,695 women from the US., China, Indian and Sweden found that making emergency contraception easier to obtain has had no impact on unplanned pregnancy rates.

The review, which was published in The Cochrane Library, found that even though women who have the pills on hand tend to take them sooner after unprotected sex, this had little affect on the pregnancy rate.

Lead researcher, Chelsea Polis, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: “Our review suggests that strategies for advance provision of emergency contraception which have been tested to date do not appear to reduce unintended pregnancy at the population level.

“At the same time, advance provision does not appear to increase the risk of unprotected sex or sexually transmitted infections, and does not change use of other contraceptive methods.

“Some women may not use emergency contraception when needed, even if they have it in advance. Like condoms, emergency contraception will not work if it is not used.”

In an effort to make emergency contraception (also known as Plan B) more readily available to women, the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 2006 that emergency contraception could be sold without a prescription to women age 18 and over.

The Church forbids the use of artificial contraception such as Plan B and was particularly active in the U.S. in the battle to keep the drug out of the hands of minors.

“The Bishops’ conference continues to oppose making Plan B available without medical supervision, whether to minors or adults,” said Dierdre McQuade, Director of Planning and Information at the Secretariat, after the FDA’s decision to allow over-the-counter sales in 2006.

She explained that Plan B is a large dose of a powerful hormonal drug that is available only by prescription when used in smaller doses for contraception and may act on a woman’s body in several ways.

“The morning-after pill may prevent fertilization, or it may interfere with the implantation of the embryo in her mother’s womb,” Ms. McQuade said. “Such interference is best understood not as contraceptive but as a very early abortifacient action.”

McQuade added: “A number of studies have shown that readier access to emergency contraception does not lower unintended pregnancies or abortions. Such access may also lead to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Plan B fails the test of addressing an urgent medical need – a new human life is not a disease – and may expose women to greater harm.”

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