Emergency Contraception - resource sheet

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CRLC - POLICY ON ABORTIFACIENTS

Some means of birth control are truly contraceptive in nature; that is, they prevent the union of the sperm from the male with the ovum from the female. After the sperm unites with the ovum, however, a new human being comes into existence. Some means of birth control are abortifacient; that is, they destroy the new human being thus conceived. Colorado Right to Life Committee opposes all abortifacient means of birth control.

Adopted by the CRLC Board of Directors
December 14, 1985

(Colorado) HB06-1212

"EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION" MEANS ANY DRUG APPROVED BY THE FEDERAL FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION THAT PREVENTS PREGNANCY AFTER SEXUAL INTERCOURSE,  INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ORAL CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS; EXCEPT THAT "EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION" SHALL NOT INCLUDE RU-486, MIFEPRISTONE, OR ANY OTHER DRUG THAT INDUCES A MEDICATION ABORTION.

Web site of Plan B (http://www.go2planb.com/section/prescribing_info/index.html

CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY

Emergency contraceptives are not effective if the woman is already pregnant. Plan B is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium). It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun.

Plan B Website (http://www.go2planb.com/ForConsumers/AboutPlanB/HowItWorks.aspx)

Plan B® works like a regular birth control pill. It prevents pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary, and may also prevent the fertilization of an egg (the uniting of sperm with the egg). Plan B® may also work by preventing it from attaching to the uterus (womb). It is important to know that Plan B® will not affect a fertilized egg already attached to the uterus; it will not affect an existing pregnancy.

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(Tom Longua testimony - description of process at beginning of pregnancy)

The embryo actually begins its life long before implantation. When a woman's egg is expelled from an ovary, it begins its journey to the uterus in the fallopian tube. If it is fertilized by a sperm, that fertilization takes place well up in the tube. By the time it reaches the uterus, it has undergone several cell divisions, so what arrives in the uterus is a growing embryo of many - sometimes many hundreds of - cells, that are already differentiating into different types of tissue - nerve, bone, muscle, etc. It may be a tiny human being, but, as Dr. Seuss's Horton knows, "A person's a person, no matter how small."

If emergency contraception prevents that embryo from implanting, it kills that living, growing human being.

Which of these actions are likely? Here's some additional information.

From The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 4th ed., Keith L. Moore, M.Sc., Ph.D., F.I.A.C., W.B. Saunders Co., 1988, pp. 27-28:

"Studies on early stages of development indicate that oocytes are usually fertilized within 12 hours after expulsion from the follicles at ovulation. In vitro observations have shown that the unfertilized human secondary oocyte cannot be fertilized after 24 hours and that it undergoes degeneration thereafter."
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From the Mayo Clinic website
(http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy/AN00281):

"Sperm ejaculated into a woman's vagina remain alive and able to fertilize an egg for three to five days. Nutrients in the semen and ideal temperatures allow the sperm to stay alive in the mucus of the cervix."
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Given these facts, it is clear that fertilization of an egg must occur within 24 hours after ovulation, but this could be as long as 5 days after intercourse. (Some other medical sources say 7 days.)

No one can be certain of which effect the EC drugs actually have in a particular case, but there are only three possibilities:

1.  The drugs may have no effect at all; that is, there is no egg present, or fertilization does not occur anyway, or the drug is ineffective and both fertilization and implantation take place.

2.  If the drugs are taken before ovulation occurs, or within the first 24 hours after ovulation, they could prevent the fertilization of an egg by either of the first two actions listed by Plan B and thus prevent the  formation of a new human life. But they could also have the same effect as in the next item.

3.  If the drugs are taken after the first 24 hours since ovulation, the only effect they could have is to prevent the implantation of an embryo in the uterine lining; that is, they would kill that living, growing human being.