Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 2004
Morning after pill given OK
COLF protests, but pill soon available over the counter
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The federal government is going ahead with plans to make the "morning after pill" available without prescription across Canada, despite an appeal by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF).
Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced May 18 that Health Canada is moving forward to allow the pill without a doctor's prescription throughout Canada. Currently, the pill is only available without prescription in British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
"Women facing an emergency need timely access to this type of therapy," said Pettigrew.
Known as "Plan B," the pill is an "emergency contraceptive" that can be used to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex or when there is a known or suspected contraceptive failure such as a broken condom.
To be effective, the first pill should be taken as soon as possible within 72 hours of intercourse.
The proposal to extend access to the morning after pill across the country follows input received from women's groups and health professionals, "an extensive review of the clinical evidence and safety data, and recommendations by pharmacists' associations," Health Canada said.
Last November, COLF, a joint project of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, asked that a proposal to make the pill available without a doctor's prescription be reconsidered.
Women have a right to know that what is described as "emergency contraception" may in reality be a form of early abortion, said the organization in a letter to then-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.
The organization also said women - teenagers especially - who believe they need the morning after pill, also need counselling, 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.