The Centers for Disease Control on Thursday released a first-of-its-kind study showing that the use of emergency contraception is rising in the United States, while its repeated use remains “extremely low.” This means that increasing numbers of women between the ages of 15 and 44 are able to control their own reproductive decisions, thus reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and the number of abortions.
But the news is bound to elicit outrage from the conservative right, who often try to draw a non-existent connection between emergency contraception — often called Plan B — and medication abortions. Here’s how to win the argument for emergency contraception:
1.THE SCIENCE: Plan B is not an abortion. Emergency contraception works in one of two ways. It can either stop an egg from being released, holding it in the ovaries so that it cannot become fertilized. Or, if an egg has already been released from the ovaries, the pill increases mucus in the uterine lining, which slows sperm and renders it unable to fertilize an egg. It does not flush out a fertilized egg, and thus cannot be considered an abortion by any definition. AsapSCIENCE put out an extremely helpful video explaining the science behind emergency contraception, and why it’s different than abortive medicine:
2. THE NUMBERS: Plan B reduces abortions. When conservatives who oppose abortion shut down at the mention of emergency contraception, they’re doing themselves a disservice. Access to Plan B is a proven method for reducing the abortion rate. In the year 2000, 51,000 abortions were prevented thanks to Plan B. And in other countries where emergency contraception has been readily available to women for years, the abortion rate goes down. In France, for example, the abortion rate is half of what it is in the U.S., largely thanks to the availability of non-prescription, over the counter, Plan B.
3. THE SUPPORT: Physicians want more Plan B. Doctors’ groups across the country have encouraged increasing access to emergency contraception. Groups including the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the American College Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all support over-the-counter access to Plan B. Unfortunately, such access is still limited. A girl under 17 cannot get the pill without a doctor’s note, despite no medically necessary reason to require her to get one. Physicians oppose this rule, and have spoken out in favor of changing it.
The latest conservative crusade against Plan B has revolved around insurance coverage of Plan B, with company CEOs (most notably the head of national craft store chain Hobby Lobby) arguing that they will not cover emergency contraception since it’s an “abortion-inducing drug.” But even as they continue to drag out this fight — taking it to the courts and trying to reverse the law — the facts aren’t in their favor.