Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Different Perspectives on Emergency Contraception

Medscape News (free registration) has 2 (two) articles on emergency contraception.  One article is essentially worthless; the other, alarming.

US Official Defends Morning-After Pill Delay

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Aug 30 - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt on Monday defended the Food and Drug Administration's delayed ruling on over-the-counter access for a "morning-after" pill, saying officials never guaranteed a "yes or no" decision by this week.

On Friday, the FDA postponed a ruling on Barr Laboratories' Plan B emergency contraception because it said officials were unsure how to enforce a prescription requirement for younger girls while easing access for women over 16.

"We did take a step forward in the process," Leavitt said. "Sometimes action isn't always yes and no. Sometimes it requires additional thought."

The FDA, which is part of Leavitt's department, called for 60 days of public comment but gave no further deadlines.

Supporters and critics of the controversial drug expected the FDA to rule by Thursday, when Leavitt and FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford said the agency would "act."

Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Hillary Clinton of New York, who both dropped objections over Crawford's nomination as commissioner based on that pledge, said Leavitt was playing "word games." [...]
Access to Emergency Contraception Poor in Hospital ERs in US

By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Aug 30 - Results of a survey show that the availability of emergency hormonal contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy is limited in hospital emergency departments in the US, regardless of circumstances or affiliation with the Catholic Church.

Posing as women in need, trained interviewers telephoned emergency department staff at all 597 Catholic hospitals in the U.S. and 17% of non-Catholic hospitals (n = 615) to inquire about the availability of emergency contraception.

According to the results, published in the August issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, staff at 42% of non-Catholic and 55% of Catholic hospitals reported that they do not dispense emergency contraception, even in cases of sexual assault. [...]

Among staff that said their hospital does not provide emergency contraception under any circumstance, only about half gave callers a valid referral to where they could obtain emergency contraception. [...]
Alarming?  Alarmist?  Emergency contraception has been in use since 1999 under FDA approval.  It has been available over the counter in Europe for 20 years.  Canada and five US states permit OTC sales.  Advocates estimate that it could prevent half of the unintended pregnancies, and half of the elective abortions, each year.  

Those persons who believe that life begins with conception probably should not use EC.  Those who lean more toward the view that life begins with implantation, or at some later time, should have access to it.  Those who believe that they have the right to make decisions about other people's moral choices should become dictators of poor countries, where nobody has any rights.  Last I checked, several are still available.

I can't find the link now, but I read earlier that the FDA already had received thousands of public comments on the issue, even before this latest call for comments.  I suppose they want more.  Comments can be sent to the FDA here, although it seems doubtful that more comments will change anything.  

Meanwhile, women who find themselves in need of EC can call 888-NOT-2-LATE or go to www.themorningafterpill.net.