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From 1999 To Today: Federal Government Continues to Promote Unscientific Claims About Plan B Contraception

Plan B – the morning after pill – is an emergency contraceptive. It prevents pregnancy by delaying ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before the eggs can be fertilized – and also by hindering the ability of sperm to swim by thickening cervical mucus.

A recently published article in the NY Times reveals that the federal government has, since 1999 when Plan B was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.), been putting out unscientific views about this pill and its mechanisms. Without scientific foundation they stated that Plan B “may” block fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman's uterus.

Since then these statements have been picked up and promoted widely. They control what still appears on every label of Plan B. Until just recently they were echoed as facts on the NY Times Medical website, the Mayo Clinic and other sites as well.

And this statement has provided fodder for right-wing anti-abortion forces to whip up an extremist frenzy attacking and labeling Plan B as an abortion medication, passing laws limiting women's access to this medication, and providing an avenue to attack women's right to contraception as well as their right to abortion. All of this has done and continues to do great harm to women – has helped bolster the attacks by extremist right wing forces against women in general.

Over the course of the years since 1999, the maker of Plan B and other scientists have repeatedly appealed to the F.D.A. to remove these unscientific statements each time offering more and more evidence of how Plan B actually works. And each time the F.D.A. has refused, most recently in 2010 – during the Obama administration. Even today, they still refuse, refusing to even discuss this decision with the Times reporter.

The Times article does a service in exposing all this. But it does so within limits of framing these issues in terms promoted by and acceptable to the right wing. Most centrally, the article doesn't take a clear stand that even if Plan B did induce abortions there would be nothing wrong with that as long as women's health was protected. Though abortion rights are under huge attack – with abortion providers having been murdered by right wing fanatics and abortion services becoming almost impossible for women to find in many parts of the country – abortion is still legal in this country. We should not let the right wing set the terms of this debate – this must stop.

The Times article also quotes and gives a platform to “right-to-life” forces to speak (as if they are authorities) about what kind of scientific evidence is necessary about Plan B – as if these people care about science and scientific integrity! This media practice of giving “equal balance” to real scientists alongside fundamentalist fanatics pretending to speak about science is itself an attack on science.

The full N.Y. Times article can be read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/health/research/morning-after-pills-dont-block-implantation-science-suggests.html

See also: Obama Administration Overrules FDA Approval Of Plan B – Right Wing Politics Trumps Science Again

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