Morning-After Slut Pills Don't Actually Prevent Implantation, After AllS

If you ask any of the bazillion "pro-life" dudes who bravely stand for zygotes by standing against emergency contraception, they'll tell you that the morning after pill — or Plan B if you want to get brand-namey — is an abortifacient because it prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman's uterus. The FDA will tell you that, too. And so will several leading hospital's websites. But, if you actually look into scientific studies of how the Morning After Pill works, you'll find that's simply not the case.

The New York Times examined several scientific studies and spoke with leading pharmaceutical experts. Their findings? Plan B doesn't stop a pregnancy from happening if the egg is already fertilized and en route to its 9-month home in Uterus Town — emergency contraception works by giving a woman who takes it a heavy dose of regular contraception, which can prevent her from ovulating in the first place and thicken her cervical mucus, thereby making it much more difficult for a man's sperm to reach her egg if ovulation has already occurred. So, even if you believe that a zygote is a person, just like a toddler or Christopher Walken, when a woman takes emergency contraception, no zygo-cide occurs; if anything, what happens is closer to spermicide. Or, sperm-inconvenience. Hard to get up in arms over that.

The Times explains that the Myth of the Zygote Murdering Pill was born when the FDA approved Plan B for the US market. At the time, officials wanted to convey the possibility that emergency contraception may interfere with implantation, even though there was no scientific evidence to back that claim up (the reason why this apparently erroneous statement was included in the labeling in the first place is fuzzy). But the morning after pill's labeling has thrown it into the crossfire of the abortion debate for reasons that now seem to be nonexistent. In Europe, regulators have even removed mention of implantation interference from the label of one type of emergency contraception on the grounds that there's simply no science to back up that claim. The Times sifted through hundreds of pages of scientific research on EC from the time of the drug's approval until now and found a similar dearth of anti-implantation evidence.

So, will the FDA change its labeling guidelines to reflect scientific accuracy rather than an outdated hypothesis? It's possible. A growing chorus of scientists everywhere from the FDA to the Mayo Clinic to the National Institutes of Health seem amenable to changing the label and dispelling the misguided debate once and for all. Hooray! Right?

Call me a cynic, but even if the "feticide" myth is thoroughly debunked, anti-abortion rights groups who subscribe to personhood will still find reasons to oppose EC. When asked about the evidence that emergency contraception doesn't interfere with implantation a representative from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said that he doesn't see scientific consensus in the "debate;" he sees "unresolved" issues that "may be unresolvable." In other words, since there's no way to prove that EC doesn't interfere with implantation, the Church will probably just go on with its anti-science self acting as though it definitely does.

This stance, though, invites important follow up questions — if the Church is morally opposed to any substance that stops a fertilized egg from becoming a pregnancy, then how do we know that any substance doesn't interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg? If it's impossible to tell if Plan B can stop a zygote from implanting in the uterus, can scientists say with certainty that, say, riding in a car shortly after copulation doesn't interfere with implantation? How about eating spicy food or taking medication for unrelated, chronic ailments? How about having rough sex? How about taking a hot bath? How about watching Glee? It would be impossible to prove that these things don't cause abortions, if abortion is caused by anything that stops a pregnancy from happening after an egg is fertilized, even if the intent of the person performing the activity wasn't to interfere with implantation.

Why, then, does the Church not stand against literally everything that could cause the end of a pregnancy by interfering with implantation? Because the abortion debate was never about saving babies — it was about punishing women who dared have sex without embracing motherhood.

[NYT]