A French company wants to market "ella," a drug that prevents pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex, as an emergency contraceptive. But critics say it's more like an abortion pill.
According to Rob Stein of the Washington Post, FDA advisors are slated to "consider endorsing the drug" at a meeting next week. Ella is more effective than the morning-after pill Plan B and works even if taken up to 120 hours after sex, while Plan B is useless after 72. It's more of a week-after pill than a morning-after one, and that could make a big difference to women who, say, can't get to a pharmacy on the weekend — or who are turned away by providers who object to emergency contraception. But the same objections that have hampered Plan B's availability are even more intense for ella. Because its chemical makeup is similar to that of abortion pill RU-486, critics are arguing that it's not a contraceptive but a form of abortion. It's possible — though not proven — that ella could cause an already fertilized embryo to detach or fail to implant, and Jeanne Monahan, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity, says, "Women have a right to know this drug is destroying a life growing in their womb."
Supporters of the drug say there's no evidence it destroys embryos, and others point out that the FDA should rise above political concerns and focus on safety. Public health professor Susan F. Wood says, "FDA should be a 'Just the facts ma'am' organization." Still, anything that increases a woman's control over her sexual and reproductive lives seems to cause a fight in this country — and ella will probably be no exception.