Behind the morning after pillby Anna M. KrohnNews Weekly
, June 16, 2001
Roger Short, Professor of obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, recently added his voice to the campaign, led by the family planning network, for the provision of "post-coital" ("morning-after") medications to teenagers without prescription.
He declared that the only way to curb "the rising numbers of teenage conceptions" and to reduce Australia's "high per capita abortion rate" was not only to make oral contraceptives more accessible, but actively to promote the use of morning-after pills (MAPs).
He suggested that school nurses, pharmacists and even school vending machines could be enlisted to flood the teenage environment with these "mopping-up" medications.
Professor Short's comments echo the rhetoric of a well co-ordinated international campaign, worked up a few notches, and initiated in 1996 by a consortium of population control agencies - including the Population Council, UN Development Program (UNDP), World Health organisation (WHO) and Planned Parenthood Federation.
The stated mission of the Consortium of Emergency Contraception was a commitment "to making a dedicated product for emergency contraception a standard part of reproductive health care around the world."
In 1996 the WHO announced the addition of "emergency contraceptive pills" to its Essential Drugs listing.
One pharmaceutical company in Canada described its marketing of over-the-counter post-coital kits as an "aggressive national promotion campaign." The campaign was supported by the Canadian Pharmacists' Association, with WHO backing.
America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which normally acts as a regulatory body for new products, committed $US3 million to the active promotion of Preven and other "morning-after" medications.
The US abortion-rights and "family planning" agencies have been promoting the morning-after pill kits as an essential part of the home first-aid kit, with the surprising admission that there are serious holes in the effectiveness of modern contraceptive methods.
"our reversible methods of contraception are highly unreliable. People forget to take some of their birth control pills, while condoms tear and slip. ...
"Many women find present birth control so awkward and uncomfortable that continuous use is not even a reality."
In reality, the hype about MAPs is seriously misleading. First, it is specious to describe a drug of that sort as an effective "contraceptive". Although the average morning-after pill is a double or triple dosing of a high-oestrogen-based contraceptive pill applied within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, its action would rarely be "contraceptive".
It is possible that in 75 per cent of cases, teenage women are not fertile when intercourse takes place. Without medical supervision, and a knowledge of pre-existing risk factors (e.g. cardiovascular problems, epilepsy), there is no way of knowing the side-effects which young women who self-medicate will have with a powerful hormonal MAP.
To encourage a "panic and purge" ritual, of possibly repeated morning-after pill use, is hardly likely to lead to the development of either sexual responsibility or "reproductive empowerment" in young women.
Furthermore, if a young woman taking the so-called "contraception" pill is fertile at the time of intercourse, there is a chance that she has already conceived.
Here the morning-after pills act to cause the womb to shed its lining, destroying an early embryo. In these cases the young woman has been misinformed; the morning-after pill is not a contraceptive but an abortifacient.
Recent Australian studies have shown that in many cases the young women fear pregnancy because their sexual encounters are unplanned and sometimes unwanted.
A study from La Trobe University revealed that many girls felt they lacked the confidence to negotiate sexual pressure and also felt unable to talk to trusted adults about their problems.
A survey released by the Department of Family Services found that 14 per cent of girls had experienced rape and one-third of them had experienced violence in their personal relationships.
Morning-after pills promotion simply ignores the serious implications of these and other studies.
In a study into the provision of contraception to teenage girls in general practice in the UK, it was found, that even with GPs' mediation, "Cases whose pregnancy ended in a termination were more likely to have received emergency contraception than the controls."
This suggests that despite the marketing, not only does morning-after pill promotion do nothing to protect young women from the pressures of promiscuity, emotional turmoil or the risk of sexually transmitted disease, it does not protect them from the isolating damage of abortion either.