Posted by on March 28, 2013 - 10:43am

Recently, emergency contraceptives have been at the center of the debate as to whether employers must cover contraception under their health insurance plans. Under the Affordable Care Act, which covers preventive care, non-exempt employers must cover the morning-after pill (Plan B) and the week-after pill (ella) for their employees. Some companies don’t want to follow this requirement because they claim that these drugs cause abortions. However, it seems that these claims are based on outdated information, because recent research now definitively proves that Plan B doesn't cause abortions, and that ella most likely doesn’t impact established pregnancies.

In the past, researchers knew that Plan B prevented pregnancy primarily by stopping ovulation, and therefore, fertilization. However, they were not certain whether it prevented fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. An abortifacient (abortion-causing drug) is something that interrupts an established pregnancy, which is typically considered to be when a fertilized egg implants in a woman’s uterus. By this definition, a drug that causes an unimplanted fertilized egg to leave a woman’s body is not considered an abortion, but it is still objectionable by some parties.

Recent studies, including one led by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, have proven that these objections are unfounded by showing that Plan B only prevents ovulation and fertilization. It in no way stops a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus, and does not cause abortions. This is also most likely the case with the week-after pill, known as ella, although the research is not as definitive. Ella is related to the abortion drug, RU-486 (Mifeprex), but unlike that drug which predominantly affects a woman’s endometrium, ella more strongly affects a woman’s ovaries, preventing ovulation. One study found that the rate of women who took ella after ovulation experienced pregnancy at the same rate as women who did not take it, indicating that the drug most likely does not prevent implantation.

While there is still stronger controversy when it comes to ella, individuals in the medical field opposed to abortion are starting to accept the fact that Plan B doesn't cause abortions, which is an important step in its increased acceptance as a contraceptive.

Source: Rovner, Julie. “Morning-After Pills Don’t Cause Abortion, Studies Say.” NPR. 4 February 2013.

For more information on the preventive services covered for women under the Affordable Care Act, click here.

Posted by on February 9, 2013 - 12:44pm

FDA regulators announced they will not take action regarding a vending machine that dispenses emergency contraception on Shippensburg University's campus in Pennsylvania, MSN News reports.

The machine is located in the school's health center, which can only be accessed by students and employees, and offers Plan B One-Step for $25. Under federal law, individuals ages 17 and older may purchase EC without a prescription.

The machine has been in place for about three years but it wasn’t widely known until it drew national media attention last year, prompting critics to claim it would encourage students to have sex. In response to the scrutiny, the Student Senate and the University Forum both passed resolutions in support of keeping the machine.

Erica Jefferson, an FDA spokesperson, in a statement said the agency "looked at publicly available information about Shippensburg's vending program and spoke with university and campus health officials and decided not to take any regulatory actions."

Peter Gigliotti, executive director for university communications and marketing, in a statement said an additional card reader has been installed on the machine, which students must use before accessing the drugs (Eng, MSN News, 1/29).