The ‘Uber for birth control’ expands in conservative states, opening a new front in war over contraception

Stat

Max Blau

It’s a telemedicine app that seems rather innocuous — enter your info, have it reviewed by a physician, and get a prescription. The California-based company behind it has raised millions to support its mission of expanding access to the pill, ring, or morning-after pill with minimal hurdles.

But that last option is now starting to attract pushback from anti-abortion activists, who consider the morning-after pill equivalent to abortion — and who say lax telemedicine laws are enabling access to this drug with insufficient oversight.

Nurx, an app that’s been called the “Uber for birth control,” lets patients obtain a variety of contraceptives from the touch of a smartphone; it also gives women access to Plan B and Ella, two forms of the morning-after pill, which is effective in preventing a pregnancy after sex. Women can order these drugs in a few easy steps: answer a series of health questions; provide basic demographic information; and choose a preferred drug. A doctor then reviews the patient’s information, writes a prescription, and the drug is delivered to either the patient’s home or her local pharmacy. . .  [Full text]

 

Accuracy of morning after pill labels disputed

A New York Times article outlines the controversy concerning the morning after pill over whether or not the drug may have an embryocidal effect by interfering with implantation.  In brief, though the FDA approved labels state that the drug can have that effect, and such statements can be found on the National Institutes of Health and Mayo Clinic websites, there is increasing evidence that Plan B (the most commonly used version of the drug in the USA) does not have that effect.  Enquiries by the New York Times led to the deletion of reference to an implantation effect on the website of A.D.A.M., which writes the entries for the NIH website.  Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that he would be “relieved” if the drug did not affect implantation, but did not believe that the issue had been resolved.

Conscientious Objectors Behind the Counter: Statutory Defenses to Tort Liability for Failure to Dispense Contraceptives

1 St. Louis U. J. Health L. & Pol’y 337, 337-40 (2008)

Jennifer E. Spreng

Introduction:  The United States Food and Drug Administration’s decisions in the past decade to approve both RU-486 and Plan B have created crises of conscience for some religious pharmacists. RU-486 induces abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy without surgical intervention and Plan B is a two-pill “emergency contraceptive” regimen that may have abortifacient properties. Some religious pharmacists prefer not to dispense the drugs because their religious scruples forbid them from participating in abortions.  Some also object to dispensing daily oral contraceptives6 on the same basis. [Full Text]

The Ever-Expanding Health Care Conscience Clause: The Quest for Immunity in the Struggle Between Professional Duties and Moral Beliefs

34 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 779, 816 n.237 (2007) 

Maxine M. Harrington

Introduction:  During the past few years, the debate over whether health care professionals should be required to provide services that conflict with their personal beliefs has focused primarily on pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions.1 According to one media account, during a sixmonth period in 2004 there were approximately 180 reports of pharmacists refusing to dispense routine or emergency oral contraceptives. 2 This controversy, however, extends beyond the pharmacy into every facet of the heath care system. . .[Full Text]

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.