The Illusion Of Plan B
Plan B is the top selling over-the-counter emergency contraceptive in the United States. Its success has been and continues to be propelled by the fact that the FDA has made the drug so easy to obtain, and that consumers believe that Plan B prevents human sexual reproduction after sexual intercourse. Unfortunately, Plan B is not a magical contraceptive. While scientists have been researching and debating the primary way that Plan B works for many years, there is one vital area of scientific consensus: Plan B has the capacity to stop a new human being, who is already 5-7 days old, from implanting in a woman’s uterus and continuing with his or her human development (i.e., the drug is not strictly contraception).
Despite this fact, the FDA-approved packaging continues to advance the myth that Plan B is a contraceptive only, making it virtually impossible for even a very sophisticated consumer to rely upon the product information to make an informed choice about a powerful drug with adverse health consequences. Regardless of what one thinks about Plan B, the FDA is responsible for ensuring that consumers have access to relevant, comprehensible and scientifically accurate information, so that the individual consumer can choose, not the FDA.
Plan B (levonorgestrel 1.5 mg) claims that it is an emergency “contraceptive” pill that prevents “pregnancy” after sexual intercourse, and even emphasizes and reassures consumers about this point, stating that Plan B “is not effective in terminating an existing pregnancy”. However, the product information also states, and scores of scientific studies have found, that one way that Plan B works is by preventing implantation of an already existing human being. Moreover, the latest scientific and medical research suggests that the popular medication may work predominantly via abortion. One recent study even estimated that Plan B may only prevent fertilization and ovulation in 15 percent or fewer of cases, i.e., Plan B mainly works after fertilization has occurred.
Plan B’s owners are only able to make these claims based upon on their erroneous use of the equivocal terms “conception” and “pregnancy” to mean beginning at implantation. Thus, the declarations are scientifically incorrect and deceptive. Science knows that in human sexual reproduction, a new human being begins to exist and pregnancy normally begins at the same time, at first contact between a sperm and an “egg,” in a woman’s fallopian tube; this is the beginning of the biological process known as fertilization. Science also knows that implantation begins about one week after fertilization.
Therefore, when Plan B “inhibits implantation” it is actually impeding an already existing human being (a human embryo) from implanting in a woman’s uterus (“womb”). The scientific reality is that when Plan B interferes with implantation it is not preventing pregnancy and working as a contraceptive, it is working as an abortifacient.
These scientific facts are documented in the Carnegie Stages of Human Embryonic Development, the global standard of human embryological research. The Carnegie Stages cover the 23 stages of development of the human being during the embryonic period, which begins at fertilization and continues through slightly more than eight full weeks. Carnegie Stage 1a is when a new human being — a human embryo — begins to exist. Implantation does not begin until Carnegie Stage 4.
Plan B’s product information neglects to cover the fundamental scientific facts about human reproduction, and so most consumers don’t know that the medication also works via abortion. What they do know is that according to the label it is a “contraceptive” that works after sex, it is easy to obtain and it may even be available at little or no cost (as “contraceptives” are covered under Title X and in some states by Medicaid).
Due to this trifecta of factors (magical “contraception”, readily available, affordable), the over-the-counter (OTC) emergency contraception (EC) industry is thriving. The use of EC pills has increased from 4% (or 2.3 million) of women in 2002 to 20% (or nearly 11 million) in the period ending in 2015, and EC is the fastest growing of all OTC drugs. Since 2011, Planned Parenthood has provided nearly 7 million emergency contraception kits (totaling more than an estimated $250 million in revenue). Also, despite the fact that EC is not intended or safe for routine use, women are using it with an increasing frequency and as their primary method of birth control.
Plan B’s popularity and current trajectory are a result of and depend upon the distorted notion that the drug averts human sexual reproduction. The FDA-approved product label omits the objective science about when a human life starts, employs unscientific definitions of key terms and minimizes known health risks. Unfortunately, beliefs and regulations do not change the scientific facts, and this machination does not end well for a large and growing number of human beings: those who are being deprived of their ability to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to take an abortifacient, and those new human beings whose lives are being terminated.
How can the FDA be allowed to continue to foster such false science?
Brooke Stanton is the CEO of Contend Projects, a registered 501(c)(3) education organization spreading the basic, accurate scientific facts about when a human life starts and the biological science of human embryology.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.