While supporters of the pill refer to it as "emergency contraception," it is in fact an early-stage abortion pill in some cases because inception has already occurred.
Dr. Thomas Purdon of Tucson, Ariz., the incoming president of ACOG, said that more than 3 million pregnancies in the Unites States each year were unintended and about 1.2 million of those pregnancies ended in abortion. If women used "emergency contraception" and took "safe, proven medication" within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse, Purdon said, "We could cut that abortion rate in half."
But the response of the medical profession, he said, is "abysmal and unacceptable." He said that doctors now wait until women request "emergency contraception" information before writing a prescription, yet studies show that few women are aware that emergency contraception is available.
At the annual meeting of ACOG, Purdon called on doctors who are responsible for women's health to initiate conversations regarding "emergency contraception" with any women who is still capable of bearing children. Purdon said the position was a "step above" the one taken by the organization two years ago in which it suggested writing an "emergency contraception" prescription with every contraceptive pill prescription.
"And," Purdon said, addressing the public, "if your doctor doesn't offer emergency contraception, ask for it. It is important. All sexually active women are at risk for contraceptive emergencies."
Dr. Anita Nelson of the University of California, Los Angeles, said the emergency contraception pills prevented pregnancy by delaying ovulation for one cycle and preventing fertilization from occurring, or the hormones in the pills prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall, preventing pregnancy from occurring.
"Emergency contraception" prevents pregnancy, the doctors claimed, distinguishing it from other medications, notably RU-486, which terminates early pregnancy by abortion.
Purdon said it was important that women have prescriptions available so that if they experienced an accident in the middle of the night or on a weekend they did not have to find a doctor to write the prescription, only a pharmacy that stocks the pills.
Some pharmacies still do not fill prescriptions for "emergency contraception," the major one being Wal-Mart of Bentonville, Ark. In a statement, Wal-Mart said: "In the fall of 1998, Wal-Mart made the decision not to carry Preven, also known as the morning-after pill. This decision was based on business considerations and should not be interpreted as a moral or ethical decision. We appreciate the important role we play as one of the nation's leading community pharmacies."
"In making decisions about the products we carry, we will continue to fully consider our role in local health care as well as the best interests of our business," it said.
Preven and Plan B are the "emergency contraception" formulations approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Purdon said that ACOG and other organizations are hoping that the manufacturers of the drugs will seek FDA approval to make "emergency contraception" an over-the-counter medication, easing access further.
However, Purdon said that "the political climate" in Washington might provide obstacles to such FDA action."
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