Emergency contraception a flawed choice

London Free Press
March 19, 2002

Reproduced with permission

Sharon  Osvald

Tomorrow, the first day of spring, a coalition of American national, state and local organizations will take Walt Disney’s Bambi’s notion of “being twitter pated” to a new level.

March 20 is the kick-off to their first annual “back up your birth control” campaign. On that day, women all over the U.S. will be asked, regardless of their need, to request emergency contraceptives (EC) from their doctors. Doctors will promise to tell their patients about EC; pharmacists will talk to their customers about it and activists will lobby both state and federal legislatures in favour of more access and awareness of EC.

Similar campaigns to support what many call the morning pill have been taking place for a couple of years with radio ads, billboards picturing a broken condom and other literature. The Web site has an image of a young working woman flexing her bicep with a heart-shaped tattoo saying EC.

Preven and Plan B are the two emergency contraceptives approved in Canada, but according to pharmacists I’ve talked to, many doctors have been prescribing concentrated birth-control hormones within 72 hours of sex since the 1970s. If taken in time, it prevents fertilized eggs from implanting on the uterine wall. Advocates for EC call it “a  safe, effective back-up birth control method that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure.” Opponents, however, call it an “abortifacient,” believing conception begins at fertilization and the idea of contraception after the fact is nothing more than wishful thinking.

I am certain the intentions of the majority involved in this initiative are good. After all, even the most pro-choice person knows the fewer full-fledged abortions that take place, the better for everyone. Consider the horrible state of the 15-year-old Brampton girl recently charged with second-degree murder after hiding her pregnancy and injuring her baby girl in an unassisted home birth. In contrast, EC pills seem such a neat little compromise. More radical feminists embrace EC as a tool to empower women against the evil oppressor, men, who make us pregnant in the first place and get off scot-free.
However, aside from my personal convictions about when life begins, this campaign and others like it give me the willies. This is because, in the words of Canadian organization, The Protection of Conscience Project, they are so “well-organized, well-connected and well-funded” and “may directly impact some conscientious objectors, especially if activists decide to target objectors or objecting facilities in order to get media coverage or to initiate complaints of professional misconduct.” In short, these groups bully those who don’t see the world from their point of view and trample on objectors’ rights and freedoms.

Secondly, it seems to me the message of emergency back-up plans is cheap. I mean, if a group is going to take time, energy and resources to imprint a message into the psyche of young women, is this the best message we have to give them? Why not teach them to respect themselves, to be responsible for their actions (even mistakes) and how to form monogamous, lasting accountable relationships, instead of ones that create an emergency if you become pregnant when pre-intercourse birth control fails? Why don’t we hand out planned parenting post cards that say, “Don’t waste yourself on a one-night stand,” instead of, “You have 72 hours to erase last night.” Rather than simply empowering women to be in charge of their bodies, why not teach men and women what a wonderful thing sex can be in the right context? Maybe even, heaven forbid, encourage  them to wait? Then we might not only have less unwanted pregnancies, but also women who are emotionally healthy and truly empowered.

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