The latest numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics show that use of the “morning after” contraceptive, known as the “abortion pill” among pro-life activists, has risen dramatically over the past 10 years. The report from the statistics arm of the federal Centers for Disease Control found that 11 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 who identified themselves as “sexually experienced” had used one of the brands of the so-called “emergency contraceptive,” which research shows can cause abortion. The one in nine sexually active women who said they had used the drug after sex accounts for some 5.8 million women nationally, compared to 2002 statistics of only four percent of women who said they had used the pill.
The survey found that of those who reported using the pill between 2006 and 2010, 59 percent said they had used it only one time, 24 percent said they had used the pill twice, and 17 percent three time or more.
The study found that those using the “emergency contraceptive” were most likely to be between the ages of 20 and 24 (23 percent) and never married (19 percent). By contrast, only five percent of women between 30 and 44 years old reported using the emergency pill, and only six percent of either current or once-married women said they had used the pill after sex.
In 2010 the Food and Drug Administration approved the morning-after pill for sale without a prescription to women over the age of 17, and the increased use correlates to easier access and the fact that no doctor needs to dispense the drug. Overall, according to the CDC's National Health Statistics Reports, 99 percent of sexually active women between 15 and 44 (53 million) have used some form of contraception.
The morning-after pill — which is commonly sold under the trade names Plan B, ella, and Preven — is at the center of the controversy surrounding the Obama administration's contraception mandate, which would require employers to provide free contraception, including the morning-after pill, to their employees. Currently over 40 federal lawsuits have been filed by Christian non-profits, colleges, hospitals, and private business owners who say the mandate would force them to violate their moral convictions because the morning-after pills can cause abortion by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus.
But proponents of the pill insist that abortion is not a factor in its use, and that it merely delays or prevents ovulation, so the egg is never fertilized. Baptist Press News reported that the “effectiveness of the morning-after pill also has been called into question. Researchers who demanded making it non-prescription found in 2007 that the pill does not reduce either abortion or pregnancy rates. 'No study has shown that increased access to this method reduces unintended pregnancy or abortion rates on a population level,' the authors wrote. They also said the drug's effectiveness may be 'substantially' overstated.”
Pro-life opponents of the morning-after pill argue that mis-labeling it as “emergency contraception” has caused increasing numbers of women to use it without realizing that it can cause abortion. Anna Franzonello of Americans United for Life said her group's “concern that life-ending drugs are being deceptively labeled as 'contraception' has only increased since the period that the CDC’s National Center for Health Services (NCHS) study examined.” She noted that in 2010 the FDA approved the “morning after” drug ella, “which can kill a human embryo even after implantation.”
Franzonello added that the NCHS report “tells us nothing about the complications that women have experienced from using these drugs and devices. Moreover, we know these life-ending drugs do nothing to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.”
As reported last September in The New American, 13 New York City high schools are providing free morning-after pills to thousands of students under a program initiated by the city's health department. While high schools around the nation have distributed condoms to students for years, observers said this was the first recorded case of schools dispensing the controversial drug with its abortifacient properties.
While the program was supposed to be a small-scale partnership between the schools and the city's health department, a recent report by the New York Post revealed that the hand out of contraceptives has been much larger and more widespread than previously reported. Shortly after the pilot program was launched last year, “officials said 567 girls had gotten Plan B,” reported the Post. “But the birth-control blitz was much bigger than the city had acknowledged. About 40 separate 'school-based health centers' doled out 12,721 doses of Plan B in 2011-12, up from 10,720 in 2010-11 and 5,039 in 2009-10, according to the newly released data.”
In addition to the so-called “emergency contraception,” reported the New York City paper, “about 40 school-based clinics have dispensed prescriptions for birth-control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), hormone-delivering injections and Patch and NuvaRing — covering a total 93,569 monthly cycles through June 2012.”
The program, which the Post said was part of Mayor Bloomberg's “stealth war on teen pregnancy,” prompted a response of outrage from Mona Davids, president of the NYC Parents Union, whose 14-year-old is a city high-school student. “I’m in shock,” Davids told the Post. “What gives the mayor the right to decide, without adequate notice, to give our children drugs that will impact their bodies and their psyches? He has purposely kept the public and parents in the dark with his agenda.”
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn called the pilot program “tragic and misguided,” charging that the giveaway usurps the role of parents as the primary educators and caregivers for their children, “and allows the public school system to substitute its beliefs and values for those of the parents.”
The Catholic leaders noted that while the state prohibits minors from getting tattoos and piercings without parental consent, when “powerful drugs — with their potentially serious side effects — are involved, we let these young teens do what they want, without a word to their parents.” They added that under New York law, 17 is the age of consent, and “parents have a right to know when their daughters are engaged in sexual activity.”
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