Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 8, 2003
COLF criticizes morning after pill availability proposal
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
A proposal by Health Canada to make the "morning after" pill available without a prescription should be reconsidered, says the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF).
Women have a right to know that what is described as "emergency contraception" may in reality be a form of early abortion, says the organization in a letter to Health Minister Anne McLellan.
"The information provided by Health Canada indicates that the pill either inhibits conception by preventing ovulation or inhibits implantation, if conception has already occurred," said the letter, signed by Bishop Pierre Morissette, the chair of COLF. "Pregnancy begins with conception not implantation. It is thus inaccurate to refer to this pill as emergency contraception, given its potential to act as an abortifacient."
He said women have a right to know that what is described as "emergency contraception" may in reality be a form of early abortion.
"Is a pharmacy that is located in a drug store or grocery store the best place to communicate this vital information?"
Two years ago, pharmacists in Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan received special training and were certified to prescribe the morning after pill - also known as Plan B - without a doctor's prescription. The pill needs to be taken by women within 72 hours after intercourse to be effective. It is considered safer than its predecessor, Preven, and is about 95 per cent effective.
But Morissette said Plan B is a high risk multiple dose of an oral contraceptive that by definition is not intended for routine use. "If this is the case, what health risks are women subjecting themselves to with one-time use of the pill? And what about those women who may have frequent unregulated recourse to it as a form of 'emergency" contraception?'"
The COLF said women - teenagers especially - who believe they need the morning after pill, also need counseling, support and information on how the pill works. They should also be made aware of its physical and psychological side effects, the dangers of regular use, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and guidance about relationships, it said. The organization wondered if the needs could be met through "a very busy, very public and perhaps impersonal pharmacy." Common sense would indicate that her needs couldn't be met in these situations, it added.
The use of the morning after pill also poses difficulties for the Catholic Health Association of Canada. "We have an ethical problem with the use of the pill but we also have a problem in terms of health and health care for the individual women and children involved," said Dr. Richard Haughian in a CCN interview last January. "So both of those would be contrary to CHAC's position and the Church's position on contraception and on abortion."