Fear Mongering and the Morning-After Pill

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A new morning-after pill is on the horizon, which means a new round of fear-mongering has begun in earnest. Last month, the FDA approved ella, a drug that can prevent pregnancy up to five days after a woman has unprotected sex. (Plan B, the morning-after pill already available works, at most, for three days.)

The debate has already begun. Opponents of ella have also opposed Plan B, saying that both drugs merely provide women with ways to give themselves abortions. The conservative Family Research Council has created a blunt website (ellacausesabortions.com), which urges people to ask their pharmacists not to carry the drug when it becomes available later this year.

I am pro-choice. And I believe absolutely that having access to these kinds of drugs is a good thing. That said, I respect the fact that not every woman will feel similarly, that some may be uncomfortable with taking a morning after pill, that some people believe it’s wrong to mess with even the youngest embryo. I respect that.

What I do not respect, is the flagrant fear-mongering that I saw on full display in a recent New York Times story on Ella. The article quotes Wendy Wright, president of the anti-abortion group Concerned Women for America. According to the Times, “Ms. Wright warned that men might slip ella to unsuspecting women…”

What I find so galling about this talking point is that it completely twists the reality of the morning-after pill, the significance of which is that it empowers women to take control of their reproductive destiny. Maybe they’ve been raped or coerced into having sex, maybe the condom broke, maybe they just made a bad, heat-of-the-moment decision. Things like Plan B and ella represent a way for women, after the fact, to regain control.

The talking point, however, suggests that if women let this pill go onto the market, they’ll be giving up control, letting men unwilling abort their babies. That’s a far-fetched scenario, to say the least. Though these stats are probably impossible to collect, I would love for someone to quantify the number of men who secretly slip ella to unsuspecting women and compare that to the number of women who seek out ella after being raped or coerced into having sex. I would bet the huge bundles of the money I don’t have that the latter number dwarfs the former.

If you’re against ella, fine. If you think taking ella equals abortion, and therefore murder, just say so. If you think that women who consent to sex should be responsible enough to always use birth control, argue that. If you think a condom breaking is a sign from God that it’s time to have a baby, and you shouldn’t mess with that by taking a pill, lay it out there. But don’t scare women into thinking that they are being disempowered by a medical advance that actually gives them more control over their own bodies.

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