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The Emergency Contraception Debate


Updated May 05, 2014

The Emergency Contraception Debate

Plan B One-Step and Plan B

Photo © 2009 Dawn Stacey


Emergency contraception is designed to prevent pregnancy, and no matter when it is used, EC will not cause an abortion. This means that if a woman takes Plan B One-Step when she already has a fertilized egg implanted in her uterus, EC will not terminate the pregnancy.

Medical experts including:

agree that the establishment of a pregnancy takes several days and is not completed until a fertilized egg has implanted in the lining of the woman's uterus. A pregnancy is considered to be established only once the implantation has occurred.

Advocates of emergency contraception remain firm about informing people that emergency contraception is not an agent of abortion. Medical authorities define an abortion as the disruption of an implanted fertilized egg. Therefore, if the medical definition of pregnancy is an implanted egg in the uterus, a woman is not considered to be pregnant if she has a fertilized egg that has not yet implanted. This means that it is impossible for Plan B One-Step to terminate a pregnancy since, medically, the pregnancy doesn’t exist.

Federal policy, as well, is both consistent and in accord with the medical community, defining drugs and devices that act before implantation as preventions to pregnancy rather than agents that terminate pregnancy.


Pro-life advocates have been pushing to redefine pregnancy as beginning at fertilization. Groups such as:

are trying to persuade women that they are not receiving all the facts about emergency contraception. These groups feel that since fertilization of an egg can happen within an hour after having intercourse, Plan B One-Step will cause a pregnancy to end.

This viewpoint of emergency contraceptives causing abortions stems from these organizations’ stance that life begins with the fertilization of an egg. Because of their beliefs, pro-life advocates are trying to convince women that Plan B One-Step causes abortions by creating a hostile environment within the uterus and preventing implantation of an egg; thus, the termination of a pregnancy is the end result.

In a quote from the South Bend Tribune, Tom Gill, president of the St. Joseph County, Indiana Right to Life group, accuses Planned Parenthood by “ignoring or denying this fact is an outright attempt to deceive [women which] seems to be common practice for Planned Parenthood.” It is clearly the opinion of many of these groups that emergency contraception is an abortifacient, and that it causes an abortion if fertilization has occurred.


Where It Stands:

Though pro-life advocates claim EC causes an abortion by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, Plan B One-Step is more accurately regarded as an emergency contraceptive by both the government and the medical community since it prevents a pregnancy from occurring in the first place. According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that advances sexual and reproductive health, “definitions that seek to establish fertilization as the beginning of pregnancy go against the long-standing view of the medical profession and decades of federal policy.”

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) considers Plan B One-Step to be a contraceptive and not the same as the abortion pill. According to ACOG, conception means implantation. Gill says, “Women deserve accurate information, and we urge them to fully understand any medication before taking it. If Planned Parenthood truly respects women, it should tell them the truth - the whole truth”. Gill further urges that “emergency contraception is also [an] abortifacient...This is not opinion. It is not theory. It is not a matter of interpretation. It is scientific fact.”

One must consider the medical and legal facts. Scientifically, something is considered an abortifacient if it causes pregnancy to end prematurely. Medical and scientific authorities consider a pregnancy to be established only once the implantation of a fertilized egg has occurred. Federal policy, in accordance with medical experts, defines medication that acts before implantation as preventions to pregnancy and not methods that terminate pregnancy. Therefore, it appears that the viewpoints of those against EC are, indeed, opinion and theory. Their belief that Plan B One-Step causes abortions is just that, a belief. When educating the public about the use of EC, the factual and scientific conclusion remains: Emergency contraception is not abortion and will not cause an abortion. It's completely impossible to terminate a pregnancy that does not exist.

Plan B One-Step is a safe and effective method for women to PREVENT a possible pregnancy after engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse and has proven to be a significantly influential option that has helped drastically reduce the number or unwanted pregnancies as well as the number of abortions that would have taken place if these pregnancies were not prevented through the use of emergency contraception.



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