Comments on the FDA Approval of a "Morning After" Pill (Sept 1998)

Dr. John Wilke, Director of the Life Issues Institute in Cincinatti, agreed with Alvare. "You have to talk about the physiology of this," he said. "When the sperm is deposited in a woman's genital tract, it reaches the ovary in 15 to 30 minutes. If she has an ovum waiting, she's pregnant before she gets out of bed."

"If she conceives, these are not contraceptives. These are abortion pills -- period," he said.

Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, founder and director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the sutdy of Human Reproduction in Omaha, NE, said it is simply wrong to say preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg is contraception: "That's an abortion statement."

"Fundamentally it (Preven) is an early abortion pill. Abortion is abortion is abortion," he said.

He said when implantation occurs despite use of Preven, the embryo will be subject to the "teratologic effects" of the high doses of hormones used -- deformities and abnormalities like missing or partial limbs, such as occured when pregnant women used thalidomide.

Alvare said Preven is being described as a contraceptive that acts "before pregnancy occurs" only because "the scientific community has redefined pregnancy in the last 10 years or so" to apply it onlywhen changes begin occuring in the woman's body after the embryo has attached itself to the uterine wall.

She said Preven makes the woman "shed the embryo from her womb" because it hardens the uterine wall and "makes the womb a hostile environment so the embryo won't attach."

She siad the chemical action is different from that of RU-486, an abortion-inducing drug used later in pregnancy to cause an ambryo attached to the womb to disengage, but the practical effect in each case is an abortion.

"Neither Preven nor RU-486 is a contraceptive device," she said.

New Birth Control Kit Criticized as Abortificient
By Jerry Filteau (Catholic News Service)

WASHINGTON -- Helen Alvare, pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. Bishops, sharply criticized the approval of a morning-after birth control kit described by its supporters as an "emergency contraceptive."

"According to the experts we've consulted, it acts commonly as an abortificient -- an abortion-causing drug," said Alvare, director of planning and information for the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities in Washington.

The Food and Drug Administration Sept. 2 approved Preven, a prescription kit consisting of four birth control pills, a pregnancy test and an information book for use after sex to prevent pregnancy.

Gynetics, a Somerville, NJ, pharmaceutical firm, plans to have Preven on the market by the end of September.

"It's a terrible thing to do to women to call this a contraceptive," Alvare said. "I don't think that's fair. It can cause a lot of mental trauma later."

She said she had a friend who had used an intrauterine device until she learned that it did not prevent conception, but rather prevented the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb. When her friend learned what was really happening with the IUD, "she was extremely disturbed that shewas doing that," Alvare said.

The following is the statement of National Right to Life on the so-called "morning after" pill and other related chemical compounds:

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) is opposed to abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. NRLC takes no position on any drug or device that acts to "prevent" fertilization. Some chemical compounds may work to "either" prevent fertilization "or" kill the developing human being which has begun to grow. National Right to Life advises women faced with these situations to consult one or more physicians. If, in the best medical judgment of the physicians, the drug or drugs will cause an abortion, NRLC strongly opposes the taking of the drug. If the drug(s) will "prevent" fertilization, the National Right to Life Committee takes no position.

(Moderator's Note: Words in quotes were in italics in the printed version of NRLC's statement. For a copy of the statement or further clarification, contact NRLC at 202-626-8800).

In a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dominic Lombardi of Respect Life Office, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, writes that Preven -- recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration is "a form of abortion that is being marketed under the disguise of 'emergency contraception.'"

He states that Preven "prevents the embryo from implanting in the uterine wall" and that "[t]he tacit presumption that pregnancy does not take place until implantation is both inadequate and inaccurate." He writes, "What is just as disheartening is the news media's acceptance of the so-called morning-after pill as a treatment that 'prevents' pregnancy." He says that "all those who acknowledge the dignity of the unborn at conception should be deeply concerned by the intensive marketing of 'emergency contraception' ... [and] should also be concerned by the news media's apparent acceptance of marketing based on 'facts' that just aren't true" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/8).

From: Laura Echevarria, Communications Director - National Right to Life

"Our position on the issue has been confused by a number of reporters. I'm sure by now you've seen the stories quoting Carolyn Gerster--she has been repeatedly taken out of context by many reporters who apparently want a cut and dried response and don't know what to do with our position on the issue. I truly don't think any of them comprehend our definition of when life begins.

Because they have placed Carolyn out of context repeatedly--we've been getting calls from individuals wondering if we have changed our position on when life begins. The answer is "NO!" Life begins at fertilization--the joining of egg and sperm--National Right to Life has always and will always stand by this as the definition of when life begins. The idea that pregnancy begins at implantation (which is how the FDA and the AMA define pregnancy)and thus when life begins--is preposterous."

"Government approval of the emergency abortion kit shows the reckless disregard for human life typical of the present administration." "This administration seems committed to promoting irresponsible behavior, especially_and most tragically_among the young." "The government needs to promote abstinence, marriage and a naturally ordered approach to sexuality." -- Edward J. Furton, PhD, The National Catholic Bioethics Center Staff ethicist.
"The newly approved 'emergency contraceptive pill' may give women another option for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, but having one more option does not make it good. One use of the pill will be to prevent the embryo from implanting in the womb, which is nothing short of directly taking an innocent human life." -- Peter J. Cataldo, PhD, NCBC Director of Research
Texas Right to Life Committee Condemns Abortifacient Emergency Contraceptives

HOUSTON, -- The following statement is from the Texas Right to Life Committee, the oldest, largest, and only statewide Pro-Life organization:

For the first time ever, a company has won government permission to advertise and sell birth control pills as "morning-after" pills for use as emergency contraceptives. The makers of the PREVEN kits, Gynetics Inc. of Somerville, N.J., claim that these pills work to prevent pregnancy by acting before pregnancy occurs. However, the anti-life side has conveniently redefined pregnancy as beginning at implantation, roughly a week after conception, so as to claim that these pills do not affect an established pregnancy. What has not been said is that these pills, which are regular birth control pills taken in higher doses, have a secondary mechanism of action: the alteration of the uterine lining so that any newly-conceived human being cannot implant and grow. The bottom line is that these pills do not solely work to prevent conception, they also function as abortifacients to prevent implantation.

"After fertilization, the pre-implantation embryo remains extremely vulnerable. The "morning-after" pill, with its high estrogen content, alters the endometrium so that implantation fails to occur..." -- "Human Embryology and Developmental Biology", Bruce M. Carlson, M.D., Ph.D., 1994, p. 110.

"The Texas Right to Life Committee, Inc. strongly opposes any drugs or devices which interfere with the implantation of a newly-conceived human. Since the so-called "morning-after pills" have a secondary mechanism of action -- the prevention of a human life from implanting after conception -- the Texas Right to Life Committee strongly opposes the sale, advertising, and use of these pills. However, we take no position on drugs or devices that work solely to prevent conception. We believe it to be a grave disservice to American women that the truth as to the abortifacient properties of this chemical cocktail has been obfuscated and in some cases, overtly denied," said Dr. Joseph Graham, founder and President of Texas Right to Life.

President: Joseph Graham, Ph.D. 713-464-3070 713-525-3598 State Headquarters: 6776 Southwest Freeway, Ste. 430; Houston, Texas 77074 Office Phone: 713-782-5433 Office Fax: 713-952-2041 Website: E-mail:


I have worked in pro-life for many years; I am a former career appointed bench NIH research biochemist; my Master's and Doctorate degrees are in philosophy and bioethics. The following quotes from just a few human embryology text books makes it perfectly clear that the use of the "morning after pill" for contraception purposes could possibly be abortifacient if the embryo is prevented from implanting in the uterus. Every human being begins at fertilization as a single-cell embryo - the zygote. What follows is not my opinion, nor is it a religious or a "faith" position. In fact, it is not even a "prolife" opinion. It is hard, cold, unrelenting, objective, scientific fact - and the FDA knows it. It is way past time that prolifers know it (or admit it) too:

-- "Human pregnancy begins with the fusion of an egg and a sperm ... Finally the fertilized egg, now properly called an embryo, must make its way into the uterus ..." (p. 3) ... "After fertilization, the preimplantation embryo remains extremely vulnerable. The "morning after" pill, with its high estrogen content, alters the endometrium so that implantation fails to occur. Similarly, intrauterine devices (IUDs) appear to function by preventing implantation ... After implantation, birth control is accomplished by aborting the embryo. (p. 110)

... "The sex of the embryo is determined by the chromosomal complement of the spermatozoon. (If the sperm contains 22 autosomes and 2 X chromosomes, the embryo will be a genetic female, and if it contains 22 autosomes and a X and a Y chromosome, the embryo will be a male.

... Through the mingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes, the zygote is a genetically unique product of chromosomal reassortment...) (p. 31)(Bruce M. Carlson, Human Embryology and Developmental Biology; St. Louis, MO; Mosby; 1994).

-- "Zygote: This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being."(p. 2) (Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human; 6th ed.; W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia; 1998).

-- "Fertilization is the procession of events that begins when a spermatozoon makes contact with a secondary oocyte or its investments, and ends with the intermingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes at metaphase of the first mitotic division of the zygote... The zygote is characteristic of the last phase of fertilization and is identified by the first cleavage spindle. It is a unicellular embryo." (p. 19)

... "The embryo grows from a zygote about 0.1 mm in diameter to a complicated embryonic body approximately 3 mm in length at 3 weeks ... During the first week, the embryo becomes a solid mass of cells and then acquires a cavity, at which time it is known as a blastocyst." (p. 23)[my note: it is this blastocyst - a human embryo which is a human being - which is prevented from implanting into the uterus through the action of the "morning after pill"]. (Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology; New York, Wiley-Liss; 1994).

-- "Fertilization takes place in the oviduct. After the oocyte finishes meiosis, the nuclei of the male and female gametes unite, resulting in the formation of a zygote containing a single diploid nucleus. Embryonic development is considered to begin at this point." (p. 1) ... "This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development." (p. 17)(William J. Larsen, Human Embryology, New York; Churchill Livingstone; 1997).

Thank you for passing this on - and for your outstanding and important work. Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D.

* Some pro-life experts said women were being misled about the pills. "It's not a contraception. It is a very, very early abortive drug," said Dr. John C. Willke, president of the Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati. Conception can occur within 30 minutes of intercourse, Dr. Willke said. "So if she has had sex, by the time she gets to taking those pills, she has conceived. So this can't be a contraceptive," he said.

The pills harden the lining of the womb so that the fertilized egg or embryo cannot implant, he said. As a result, the pills "kill a one-week-old living human."

* Serrin Foster, executive director of Feminists for Life, said the whole process was "a misnomer." "Having intercourse and then using a contraception is not contraception," she said. Ms. Foster and Dr. Willke also questioned whether the pills might cause blood clots or other problems in women who use the kits frequently, or cause problems for a fetus who survived.
* The Urban Family Council released the following statement related to todays FDA approval of post-coital contraception. Speaking for the Council is William Devlin, RN: "Let no American woman be fooled, this newly approved drug does cause abortion and thus prevents a human life from developing. As well, this is one more item in a long list of items that has been marketed to American women claiming that it will improve their quality of life and reproductive health. Have we forgotten the tragedies of Thalidomide, the Dalkon shield, the Lippes loop and silicon breast implants? All these items were marketed as healthy and life-enhancing to women. They were neither.
* Reverend Robert Fleischmann, National Director of WELS Lutherans for Life states, "It is disappointing that the FDA has approved of the so-called Emergency Contraceptive Kit. While it sounds like this is recourse for women who engaged in unprotected sex yet fear they may become pregnant it is, in fact, a kit designed to end pregnancy - it does not prevent conception. The name of this kit misleads women. The kit does not prevent the fertilization of a woman's egg. Rather, it is designed to change the uterine lining to prevent this youngest of human life to embed and grow. The kit is designed to kill a developing youngster." While WELS Lutherans for Life has no objection to properly used genuine contraception, it vigorously objects to those devices that take the lives of unborn children. The FDA has done women and mothers a grave disservice with this product.

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