Sep 052005
Authors: Vimal Patel

"If God wants you to have a baby, you should have a baby." — Steve Pries , senior social work and Spanish major

"That's their belief and they're welcome to have it. But they shouldn't push their belief on everyone else." Daniel Kessler, Planned Parenthood

The debate over Plan B, "the morning after pill," has intensified since a federal agency delayed a decision on whether to make the drug available over-the-counter.

Food and Drug Administration officials said last month they needed an additional 60 days to assess public sentiment about the pill, which is currently available by prescription only.

"It's crystal-clear that the FDA has chosen politics over legitimate science," said Karen Pearl , interim president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. "The FDA has failed its public health responsibilities and has failed women."

Plan B, along with other forms of emergency contraception, has been hailed by pro-choice groups as a deterrent to abortions and bitterly opposed by anti-abortion groups, who say the drug is tantamount to abortion.

"It's abortion," said Matt Pieper, soil and crop science senior. "It's ending a life that's beginning. You're interfering with the process of life."

However, a Planned Parenthood representative strongly disagreed.

"It's a contraceptive. It prevents pregnancy," said Daniel Kessler , a spokesman for the group's Northern Colorado branch. He added that he respected the views of those who believe Plan B is abortion even though their stance lacks the backing of science.

"That's their belief, and they're welcome to have it," Kessler said. "But they shouldn't push their belief on everyone else."

Plan B works up to 72 hours after intercourse. The pill, according to the FDA, delays or inhibits ovulation, sometimes altering transport of sperm, ultimately inhibiting fertilization. Emergency contraception pills are essentially highly concentrated doses of the hormones found in birth control pills.

For this reason, the FDA's stated position is that Plan B is not a form of abortion.

Pieper and several other students opposed to abortion did not have an opinion about whether to allow Plan B sales over-the-counter. Instead, they said they were opposed to all forms of contraception regardless of circumstances.

"We don't believe in contraception," said Steve Pries, a member of Blessed John XXIII Catholic University Ministry. "We believe that we should be open to the will of God. You're not being open-minded enough to the will of God (if you use contraception)."

He added he is not necessarily advocating abstinence.

"If God wants you to have a baby, you should have a baby," said Pries, a senior social work and Spanish major.

Widespread use and availability of emergency contraception could prevent more than half of all unintended pregnancies and abortions in the United States, according to Planned Parenthood. In addition, the group states that nearly half of America's 6.3 million annual pregnancies – including 80 percent of teen ones – are accidental.

Plan B and RU-486, although both forms of emergency contraception, are different. RU-486 – "the abortion pill" – ends a pregnancy, while Plan B prevents pregnancy.

Although Kessler said Planned Parenthood supports and administers both forms of emergency contraception, he added that Plan B has not been plagued by some of the attention-grabbing headlines resulting from health concerns related to RU-486.

Several health organizations, including the American Medical Association, have deemed Plan B safe, Kessler said.

In December 2003, an FDA advisory committee voted 23-4 to make Plan B available over-the-counter for all women regardless of age. In May 2004, the FDA denied an application by Barr Laboratories Inc., the company that manufactures Plan B, to allow over-the-counter sales. The FDA cited concerns about adolescent use.

Officials at Barr Laboratories did not return phone calls.

Groups opposed to Plan B say access to the pill will make youth more promiscuous, a position Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with.

"Study after study shows that EC is safe for teens and that they use it responsibly," said Scott Spear , Planned Parenthood National Medical Committee chair, in a statement. "Denying young women access to (emergency contraception) is an avoidable risk to their health and well-being."

Ruth Williamson , sophomore zoology major, said she has a surefire way to sidestep the contentious debate over emergency contraception: "You shouldn't have sex until you're married."

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