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Oklahoma City doctor says emergency contraception not abortion

A contentious debate remains over what emergency contraception really does.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: January 21, 2013

There's a difference between the drugs that induce a medical abortion and those used in emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill, an Oklahoma City doctor said this past week.

“Emergency contraception, first and foremost, is not an abortifacient,” Dr. Andrea Palmer, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lakeside Women's Hospital, said. “It is not going to dislodge or disrupt an already implanted pregnancy. It's not something that is going to cause an implanted pregnancy to no longer be implanted or to abort.”

Whether emergency contraceptive pills can cause abortions has been a contentious fight since the pills first came onto the market.

Emergency contraceptive pills have been around since the 1970s, according to a study published in the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception journal. Plan B and ella are two examples of emergency contraceptive pills currently available in the U.S.

Challenging the act

The issue has recently been brought to the forefront in Oklahoma City. The Green family, who owns Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby and Mardel, filed a lawsuit in September that challenges part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

They said a provision dealing with insurance coverage for certain types of contraception, including the morning-after pill, the week-after pill and some intrauterine devices, went against the family's beliefs. The Greens believe those types of contraception could cause abortions.

Meanwhile, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists argues that, for example, the emergency contraceptive drug named ella is an abortifacient.

The association argues this because taking ella “may result in death of a new human being by preventing implantation, thus is abortifacient.”

The Mayo Clinic has said that morning-after pills do not end a pregnancy that has implanted.

“Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, morning-after pills may act by one or more of the following actions: delaying or preventing ovulation, blocking fertilization, or keeping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus,” according to the clinic. “However, recent evidence strongly suggests that Plan B One-Step and Next Choice do not inhibit implantation. It's not clear if the same is true for ella.”

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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