A missed birth control pill. A broken condom. Forgetting to
think about protection.
All of these scenarios could result in an unintended pregnancy,
but a morning-after pill taken soon enough after intercourse could
help prevent such a situation.
“Emergency contraception is a hormonal method of birth control
that can be used after intercourse to prevent pregnancy,” said
Crystal Clinkenbeard, the director of public affairs at Planned
Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “If you had a condom break or
another contraceptive failure, or if you’re a survivor of rape or
incest, it’s the best way to prevent an unintended pregnancy.”
Plan B, the morning-after pill prescribed at the Hartshorn
Health Service, is Food and Drug Administration-approved and has
few side effects.
“Plan B provides a backup for women when other contraceptive
methods have unexpectedly failed, have not been used appropriately
or at all, or in cases of sexual assault,” said Carol Cox, a
spokesperson for Barr Laboratories, the company that manufactures
Cox said there have been no serious complications with Plan B.
She added that common side effects include nausea, abdominal pain,
fatigue, headache and menstrual changes.
According to Planned Parenthood, Plan B is shown to reduce the
risk of pregnancy from a single act of intercourse by 89 percent if
taken within 72 hours of the event. The pills can be taken up to
120 hours after intercourse but may be less effective the longer
the waiting period. Basically, the sooner Plan B is taken the
Currently the drug is only available by prescription, but
legislation is pending at the Food and Drug Administration to make
Plan B obtainable over-the-counter. A ruling on the matter is
expected by May 21.
“It’s important to educate people about the proper use of
emergency contraception, but it’s really the best method to prevent
unintended pregnancy and it needs to be more widely available,”
said Clinkenbeard, who added that Planned Parenthood fully supports
the measure to make Plan B available over-the-counter.
At some facilities, including at Planned Parenthood, a patient
can receive an advance prescription so she has it readily available
in an emergency situation.
“Emergency contraception can only be effective if women are
informed about it and have prompt access to it. Because of that, we
absolutely believe that women should have emergency contraception
on hand if they are sexually active,” Clinkenbeard said.
Opponents of emergency contraception warn that the pill
encourages irresponsible sexual activity and may result more
sexually transmitted diseases, especially if it becomes more widely
used and is made available over-the-counter.
However, Tanja Dunn, a family nurse practitioner at the
Hartshorn, said that after 10 years of experience in the Women’s
Clinic, she doesn’t believe emergency contraception makes people
more sexually careless. She said most of the people requesting a
morning-after pill have had some other method of contraception
Other opponents, such as Focus on the Family, equivocate using
emergency contraception to getting an abortion.
According to www.family.org, Focus on the Family’s Web site, the
morning-after pill will prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.
The site states that this is, in effect, an abortion because the
fertilized egg contains all 46 chromosomes of a human being.
However, both Dunn and Clinkenbeard refute this assumption,
saying the morning-after pill is scientifically not the same as an
abortion because of the fact that implantation has not
“(Emergency Contraception) is contraception,” Clinkenbeard said.
“It’s not a method of abortion and it works in the same way that
birth control pills work. In fact, emergency contraception won’t
dislodge an existing pregnancy. If a woman is already pregnant and
takes emergency contraception, it won’t induce a miscarriage.”
She added that emergency contraception substantially reduces
unintended pregnancies, which in turn lowers the need for abortion.
She said Planned Parenthood believes that if emergency
contraception were more widely used, half of all abortions in the
United States would be prevented.
“It’s an advantage having this method available because there
are times when any method can fail,” Dunn said. “It’s quite safe,
easily administered, well-tolerated, inexpensive and it really does
help prevent unintended pregnancies.”
A morning-after pill can be obtained by prescription in Fort
Collins at Planned Parenthood for $47 and at Hartshorn Health
Service for $12.