Once More, With Feeling

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 10, 2007

Jessica at Feministing points to a big error in this Time magazine article, “A Pro-Choice Movement in Mexico.” The story provides a very good overview of abortion politics in Latin America, but the writer unfortunately makes a reference to “abortion-inducing ”morning-after’ contraception pills,” which completely misrepresents the purpose and usage of emergency contraception:

Underground abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in Chile. Although Chile has one of South America’s strictest anti-abortion codes, it’s estimated to have twice as many abortions each year (200,000) as Canada — a country with twice Chile’s population. (Abortion is legal in Canada.) As a result, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, late last year sanctioned the free distribution of abortion-inducing “morning-after” contraception pills at government-run hospitals. In a nation where three-fourths of the public say they oppose liberalizing the abortion law — which, like Nicaragua’s, bars abortion in all circumstances, even in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger — women’s rights groups concede Bachelet’s contraceptive tack was the most legally and politically feasible for now.

As Kate D., a commenter at Feministing, writes: “you start to feel like bill murray in Groundhog Day…how many times do we have to go over this??”

Time for a re-cap. From the excellent Emergency Contraception Website, operated by the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: Does emergency contraception cause an abortion?

No, using emergency contraceptive pills (also called “morning after pills” or “day after pills”) prevents pregnancy after sex. It does not cause an abortion. (In fact, because emergency contraception helps women avoid getting pregnant when they are not ready or able to have children, it can reduce the need for abortion.)

Emergency contraceptive pills or the IUD as emergency contraception work before pregnancy begins. According to leading medical authorities — such as the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of a woman’s uterus. Implantation begins five to seven days after sperm fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later. Emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant, and it also will not harm the woman or her fetus.

The way emergency contraceptive pills work depends on where you are in your monthly cycle when you take them. They may prevent or delay ovulation (release of your egg), affect the movement of egg or sperm (making them less likely to meet), interfere with the fertilization process, or prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. The copper in Copper-T IUDs can prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg and may also prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

If you want to pass this along to Time, just click on the reporter’s name at the top of the story to open a letter-to-the-editor window.

2 responses to “Once More, With Feeling”

  1. I was talking about this with my friend the other day. While he didn’t disagree that Plan B doesn’t cause abortions, he argued that if by chance someone were to take this pill much later in the pregnancy, the high amount of hormones would cause some kind of effect. Can someone clarify this? Thank you!

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