The Walking Dead, now in its second season, has riveted audiences with its tense undead action interspersed with human drama. Lately, though, the show's seeming ignorance of how the morning after pill works has been rubbing some viewers the wrong way. It should surprise approximately no one that a drama based on a comic book about a disease that causes dead bodies to attack the Atlanta metropolitan area is presenting medically inaccurate information, but what the show says about abortion and the morning after pill is so inaccurate that it's gotten distracting.
In last week's episode, a character named Lori found out that she was pregnant. She decided to end her pregnancy by sending some guys to raid the nearest pharmacy of the morning after pill, which the show implied would cause an abortion. The two men returned with dozens of blister packs full of wasplike horse pills and a pill bottle labeled "MORNING AFTER PILL." None of this looks anything like actual Plan B; seasoned harlots know that Plan B is two tiny white round pills, like Barbie sized communion wafers, and that they come in a little pastel folder, but I digress.
After they return, Lori thinks about it for awhile before gratefully and voraciously popping the packs open. She proceeds to take like a dozen pills morning after pills, all while crying. She then has dramatic second thoughts and makes herself throw all of them up. Kris Jenner would call her the Indian Giver of abortions.
Shawn Rhea of Planned Parenthood wrote us to point out that the morning after pill can't chemically induce miscarriage; it can only prevent implantation of a fertilized egg if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. If you're already pregnant and you start popping Plan B, all you're going to do is harm yourself in the process of pursuing a state of non-pregnancy. Lori would have been better off sending the men off to loot a shop that sells herbal remedies and brewing herself some pennyroyal tea or climbing a tree and jumping out in hopes that the impact would end the pregnancy. Both of those things are dangerous and might not work, but they're about as effective as OD'ing on levonorgestrel.
The actual abortion pill, RU-486, is administered by medical professionals and wouldn't be available in a pharmacy. It's possible that the characters in the show raided a pharmacy that carried misoprostol, but that wouldn't come in a container that was labeled "MORNING AFTER PILL."
A few readers have pointed out the show's curious gender dynamics; that women don't really do much besides cry and cause problems while the men fight zombies with guns. But the Lori pregnancy story arc has perpetuated myths that are often used by pro-life groups who want to restrict women's access to emergency contraception. The morning after pill does not cause abortion, period.
To be fair, the rules for abortion should probably be different in the event of a zombie apocalypse, but, as an acquaintance who is a fan of the show pointed out, even if there are only 100 people left in the world post monster takeover, they shouldn't focus on repopulating until after the threat of zombies has passed. Pregnant people simply can't flee the zoms as fast as non-pregnant people. That's just science.
Update: A representative from Planned Parenthood contacted us to clarify that "EC does not prevent a fertilized egg from implanting, but actually suppresses ovulation and fertilization so implantation never occurs. In fact, if a woman's egg has been fertilized, EC will not work." The morning after pill works by suppressing ovulation and preventing fertilization. Thus the "morning after pill" does not cause abortion even if you believe that an egg becomes a person when it is fertilized.