Plan B is Not Abortifacient

As any regular reader of this blog is well aware, I’m strongly pro-life. However, I’m ticked off at my own movement right now because of crap like this [emphasis mine]:

"President George Bush shocked the pro-life movement with his support for over-the-counter access to abortion-drug Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, for adults. However, Plan B ‘ought to require a prescription for minors,’ he said.

[…]

"’President Bush’s implied support of over-the-counter status for the abortion-causing drug Plan B is a betrayal of the pro-life principles he claims to support,’ said Stephen Peroutka, Esq., chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center."

Let’s get with the program, people. Plan B is not abortifacient. Repeating "abortion" and "Plan B" in the same sentence over and over won’t make it so. As a devout Catholic, I’m no more a fan of Plan B than I am of condoms (or any other form of contraception), but since neither kill unborn children, there’s no just reason for banning them. Unless someone can provide evidence that Plan B causes abortions, I suggest we stop saying it does and move on to other matters. This is a poltical albatross.

[cross-posted at RedBlueChristian]

Update: Apparently, someone at Netscape.com saw fit to link to me as one of the "pro-life advocates [who] acknowledge that use of Plan B is not akin to abortion". I’m flattered by the publicity, but I really hope the inane and fruitless "conversation" going on in the comments over there doesn’t come here. I haven’t read such consistently belligerent and vapid comments since the last time I stopped by Eschaton. I don’t always agree with my readers, but I’m almost always appreciative of them and their ability to discuss matters reasonably and intelligently in the comboxes.

Update: Let Publius know whether you think I’m a "[d]ebunker of [a] commonly-held misconception or [an] advocate of netkookery".

Addendum: Serge at LTI Blog has begun a series of posts about Plan B.

  1. Emergency Contraception: A Review of the Literature
  2. Information from the Manufacturer
  3. Proposed Evidence of Post-Fertilization Effects
  4. Does it Work if Taken After Ovulation?
  5. No Morphological Changes Found in Endometrium
  6. EC: What is its Real Effectiveness?

Comments 27

  1. lauren wrote:

    While technically not abortificiant because it doesn’t end a “pregnancy”, it can indeed cause the death of a created individual by disallowing implantation.

    The studies that claim this is not possible do not take into account that planned parenthood instructs you to take both pills together which does prevent implantation.

    If you believe that a new person begins at conception, Plan B is indeed a concern.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 11:08 am
  2. Funky Dung wrote:

    “…it can indeed cause the death of a created individual by disallowing implantation.”

    I have yet to see any evidence of this.

    “The studies that claim this is not possible do not take into account that planned parenthood instructs you to take both pills together which does prevent implantation.”

    What is the other pill? If it’s the birth control pill, there’s no evidence that it’s abortifacient, either. Do you mean RU-486?

    “If you believe that a new person begins at conception, Plan B is indeed a concern.”

    I do, but I’m not convinced that Plan B impedes implantation.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 11:12 am
  3. SUZANNE wrote:

    The Catholic definition of abortion is to kill an unborn life. Plan B stops a zygote from implanting, therefore it is abortifacient.

    Btw, the medical community changed the definition of pregnancy precisely for things like this.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 11:42 am
  4. Funky Dung wrote:

    “The Catholic definition of abortion is to kill an unborn life.”

    This I am aware of.

    “Plan B stops a zygote from implanting, therefore it is abortifacient.”

    Again, where is the evidence that Plan B stops zygotes from implanting? This is an oft-repeated claim, but I’ve never seen/heard/read any scientific justification of it.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 11:46 am
  5. SUZANNE wrote:

    Plan B contains only progesterone, in contrast with the traditional morning after pill, which is a strong birth control pill containing both estrogen and progesterone. As with other emergency contraception, Plan B is a method available to give women a second chance to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex. It will not work if you are already pregnant, in other words it cannot interrupt a pregnancy or cause an abortion. An emergency contraceptive (EC) is not a substitute for regular contraception. Plan B may prevent pregnancy by temporarily stopping the release of an egg from a woman’s ovary, or by preventing fertilization. It may also prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

    http://www.uottawa.ca/health/information/contraception-planb.html

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 12:16 pm
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’ve read that and addressed it elsewhere. A warning label does not a scientific argument make. “It may also prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus” is a testable hypothesis, and, from what I’ve seen, it’s been tested and refuted. IMHO, the warning only remains as protection from litigious folks. It may also have been required by the FDA at the time of approval because not all of the drug’s means of action where known. They seem to be known now, and stopping implantation does not seem to be one of them.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 12:31 pm
  7. DJ wrote:

    Plan B is an abortificiant.

    “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already.” -Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Declaration on Procured Abortion

    “Plan B® may also work by preventing it from attaching to the uterus (womb).” -DuraMed website

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 2:06 pm
  8. Funky Dung wrote:

    “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already.” -Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Declaration on Procured Abortion

    I do not and would not dispute this.

    “Plan B® may also work by preventing it from attaching to the uterus (womb).” -DuraMed website

    Folks, you can quote the manufacturer’s insert until the cows come home, but as I’ve already explained, you will not have proved your point. If there is good scientific reason to believe that Plan B impedes implantation, I’d love to hear it.

    Read this, come back, and argue on scientific grounds. I’ll be waiting.

    If the pro-life movement refuses to argue based on evidence gathered from sound research, we will all look like rubes to those we wish to convince. Arguing from ignorance is no way to further the culture of life.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 2:15 pm
  9. Tom Smith wrote:

    You say you’ve never seen a convincing argument that Plan B is abortifacient. Have you seen a convincing argument that it universally is not?

    I’m being presumptuous here, but I would guess not. If that’s indeed the case, then I can only conclude that you’re fishing for disagreeable comments with a title as loud as “Plan B is Not Abortifacient,” seeing as how you really can’t say with certainty that it is not an abortifacient.

    Simply because you have not seen evidence that it is abortifacient does not mean that it isn’t.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 2:29 pm
  10. Tom Smith wrote:

    Following up, I didn’t mean to sound too harsh in the above comment. I agree that people need to acknowledge the burden of proof on the abortifacient status of Plan B.

    (As an aside, is anyone else struck by how UTTERLY stupid the name “Plan B” is? They may as well have called them Acme-brand “Oops! FUBAR” pills.)

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 2:37 pm
  11. DJ wrote:

    Let’s say that we don’t know if Plan B is an abortificiant. Wouldn’t you rather err on the side of life than tell everyone that Plan B doesn’t cause abortions and be wrong?

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 2:51 pm
  12. Extract wrote:

    Folks, you can quote the manufacturer’s insert until the cows come home, but as I’ve already explained, you will not have proved your point. If there is good scientific reason to believe that Plan B impedes implantation, I’d love to hear it.

    The manufacturer makes that claim, though. Are you suggesting they don’t have the scientific evidence to support their view that it may impede implantation?

    From my understanding, if a fertilized egg gets flushed because it can’t become implanted, then it is an abortion. If PlanB impedes implantation, it causes the abortion.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 3:01 pm
  13. Funky Dung wrote:

    Simply because you have not seen evidence that it is abortifacient does not mean that it isn’t.

    Basic premise of science and the philosophy thereof: a negative cannot be proven. The burden of proof is on those who propose the positive. If I believe that smoking causes cancer, the burden is on me to perform or cite research that supports my claim.

    Let’s say that we don’t know if Plan B is an abortificiant. Wouldn’t you rather err on the side of life than tell everyone that Plan B doesn’t cause abortions and be wrong?

    Sure, and while I’m at it I can tell folks that grape lollipops cause mouth cancer and should be avoided.

    The manufacturer makes that claim, though. Are you suggesting they don’t have the scientific evidence to support their view that it may impede implantation?

    I’m saying there may be non-scientific reasons for the claim.

    From my understanding, if a fertilized egg gets flushed because it can’t become implanted, then it is an abortion. If PlanB impedes implantation, it causes the abortion.

    Yes. I agree. IF. That link has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 4:18 pm
  14. Lightwave wrote:

    Tom and DJ, I have to weigh in here for:

    You say you’ve never seen a convincing argument that Plan B is abortifacient.Have you seen a convincing argument that it universally is not?".

    Funky presents thorough research in his article. (Please read it). Frankly, I have to say if something has been thoroughly researched to determine it does not exist, I’m much more likely to believe it than everything else in the world that has not been researched.

    That is to say, with the research in hand, I am certainly more convinced that Plan B is not an abortifacient, than say, aloe as absorbed through the skin is an abortifacient (which has never been researched, most likely for intuitive reasons).

    The thing is, it is really difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. For example, let’s say we wanted to prove unicorns exist. That’s pretty easy…we find one. On the other hand, let’s say we want to prove that unicorns don’t exist. That’s pretty hard….we have to observe every location in the universe they could possibly be, all at the same exact moment in time. Only then would we know for certain they don’t exist. (Someone else made this analogy once, but I’m afraid I can’t remember where to give credit). On the other hand, it is generally accepted that they simply do not exist. Why is this? Well, we simply have better proof of their lack of existence than most other things.

    So from that aspect, I think we know with more certainty than any we will find that Plan B *is not* an abortifacient and does not prevent implantation. At least, we know it better than we know for the large majority of substances that we consider non-abortifacient. I guess that would make Plan B one of the safest materials we know of (at least from a non-abortifacient perspective). Wouldn’t that mean using Plan be errs on the side of caution more than ingesting most of the materials we take for granted?

    Extract, I think Funky explained that the manufacturer does indeed lack the scientific evidence. Indeed, all I’ve been able to find is that at the time, there was no conclusive evidence. There now is evidence that it is not an abortifacient, no fertilization, and no egg. When there is an egg, it doesn’t get “flushed”, it just does what it would normally do, according to this research.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 4:26 pm
  15. DJ wrote:

    The post doesn’t address the scientific evidence of DuraMed and disprove their results. They say that it prevents implantaion, but you say they are wrong eventhough you do not address their specific studies.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 4:44 pm
  16. Funky Dung wrote:

    Where on that site does DuraMed present studies?

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 4:50 pm
  17. Ian wrote:

    I guess WebMD is making stuff up…

    And did you know that Netscape is touting your site as proof that even pro-lifers don’t see a problem with this drug?

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 5:50 pm
  18. Ian wrote:

    From your article on the topic: “Can I say definitively that Plan B does not interfere with implantation? No.”

    In that case, the Catholic Church would say you err on the side of caution.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 5:54 pm
  19. A different Lauren wrote:

    Let me preface this by saying I am PRO-CHOICE. Not pro-abortion, PRO-CHOICE.

    Thank God a pro-lifer is finally making an intelligent argument (Funky Dung). I am glad that most (if not all) agree that Plan B is not an abortifacient. The bottom line is that it will help prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions. I do worry though about health consequences to young girls who may be using the drug repeatedly or incorrectly and I agree with some arguments regarding this issue that have been made. I hope people can see the benefits of this pill. If it prevents even one teen from becoming pregnant, and not seeking an abortion then I think its an extremely important pill.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 7:16 pm
  20. Lightwave wrote:

    Ian,

    In response to

    I guess WebMD is making stuff up…

    Sarcasm aside, this statement may essentially be correct. WebMD cites other news sources, not research. The orignial post we’re all discussing is about how news sources are often incorrect on this subject.

    In that case, the Catholic Church would say you err on the side of caution

    I think I addressed that in my previous comment, give it a read.

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 8:43 pm
  21. Tom Smith wrote:

    “‘Simply because you have not seen evidence that it is abortifacient does not mean that it isn’t.’

    Basic premise of science and the philosophy thereof: a [universal] negative cannot be proven. The burden of proof is on those who propose the positive.”

    Yes, I’m quite aware, as my second post states. However, with the headline “Plan B is Not Abortifacient,” you give the impression not only that this universal negative can be proven, but that you already have, which, as you have noted, is impossible.

    “As a devout Catholic, I’m no more a fan of Plan B than I am of condoms (or any other form of contraception), but since neither kill unborn children, there’s no just reason for banning them.”

    Perhaps that they are contrary to God’s will? Is that not justification enough?

    Posted 25 Aug 2006 at 1:56 am
  22. Tom Smith wrote:

    “The thing is, it is really difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist.”

    I’m well aware; my point is that simply saying “well its unposible to prove a negative tom!!!1″ does not justify categorically ruling out its existence. No one has proven that unicorns don’t exist, for example. It is also not proven that I am not invisible when people aren’t looking. Similarly, no one has demonstrated that unwatched trees falling in forests make noise. Simply because such things are unproven does not mean that they are true or false; they are simply unproven, which is why arguing as though they are proven is not only philosophically untenable, it is dishonest. The bottom line is that I’m not arguing that Plan B is an abortifacient; I’m simply pointing out that nothing is proven.

    “. . . On the other hand, it is generally accepted that they simply do not exist. Why is this? Well, we simply have better proof of their lack of existence than most other things.”

    I think you’ve contradicted yourself — you say that a universal negative cannot be proven at this time, then say that there is “better proof” of something’s non-existence.

    “There now is evidence that it is not an abortifacient. . . ”

    You may see this as slicing the matter quite thin, but the link contains no evidence that Plan B is not an abortifacient. It merely demonstrates that there is no known evidence that it is, indeed, an abortifacient. (NB: I only very briefly skimmed the link, so I may have missed something you didn’t.)

    One more thing: While it may be the opinion of most here that Plan B does not cause abortions, the fact that the manufacturer sees fit to label its product with a warning stating that it *may* cause abortions indicates, to me anyway, that the manufacturer considers the matter an open question.

    Posted 25 Aug 2006 at 2:19 am
  23. Lightwave wrote:

    Tom,

    I think you’ve contradicted yourself

    I think there’s a pretty strong distinction between “proof” and “general acceptance”. It may be hard to prove something doesn’t exist, but I think general acceptance, is, well, generally accepted. :)

    link contains no evidence that Plan B is not an abortifacient

    No, again, such conclusive evidince does not exist for anything, hence my unicorn example. It just provides better information than we have for almost every substance we know of on earth. Hence we can say, with better confideidence than just about every other substance on earth, that we know this substance is safe in this regard.

    the manufacturer sees fit to label its product with a warning stating that it *may* cause abortions indicates, to me anyway, that the manufacturer considers the matter an open question

    I think a more acurate analysis would be that the manufacturer thinks others believe it is an open question. And since we are having this discussion, they appear to be correct.

    Posted 25 Aug 2006 at 8:50 am
  24. John wrote:

    The manufacturer’s label is fundamentally concerned with covering the manufacturer’s rear.
    Even though there is no chance that it would prevent implantation, they’re still going to put the warning so nobody sues them. I think the conversation on this thread justifies their concern that a jury could be conned into ruling against them.

    Also, Plan B is a perfectly reasonably name for the product. It is good to stress that it is not intended as your primary birth control method.
    And more importantly, it’s good to have a name that implies “oops”, because it’s a lot kinder to woman seeking the pill to have that be the implication instead of “I was raped”. Even though that’s probably the more honest answer in most cases.

    Posted 25 Aug 2006 at 11:43 am
  25. Tom Smith wrote:

    “The manufacturer’s label is fundamentally concerned with covering the manufacturer’s rear.”

    That makes sense.

    “Also, Plan B is a perfectly reasonably name for the product. It is good to stress that it is not intended as your primary birth control method.”

    Right — I understand, but “Plan B” just makes it sound like something out of Loony Toons. I’m sure the pharmaceutical company thought about it for awhile, and perhaps washed the name through a focus group, but I still think it’s kind of goofy.

    Posted 25 Aug 2006 at 1:28 pm
  26. Euthanize Liberalism wrote:

    Are you sure ignoring reality is the best defense?

    “there’s no evidence that it’s abortifacient”

    Except for the evidence that ALL post 1967 chemical “birth” control agents rely on the ‘tertiary’ abortifacient effect in the Physicians Desk Reference and Medline?

    Therefore ALL current chemical female “birth” control agents of the day are POTENTIALLY ABORTIFACIENT.

    Any potential for willful abortifacient is morally reprehensible and unacceptable.

    Posted 16 Dec 2009 at 9:20 am
  27. Euthanize Liberalism wrote:

    If Plan A, selfishly separating the reproductive function from the pleasure of the sexual act, through (willfully) ignorant use of a potential abortifacient fails prevent conception from continuing

    and if Plan B, outright willful abortifacient fails

    what is plan C?

    Posted 16 Dec 2009 at 9:25 am

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 11

  1. From LTI Blog on 29 Aug 2006 at 6:42 pm

    prescriptions for relatively innocuous medication, and I personally need to see a pharmacist to buy Claritin-D for my allergies, yet someone can buy a pill that has some pretty significant side effects seems completely insane. Yet I share JivinJ’s and Ales Rarus’ concern that pro-lifers are calling EC an abortifacient. I recently had a discussion with a well respected pro-life colleague who stated that someone he works with very closely on pro-life issues believes that EC works

  2. From Absolutely No Spin on 25 Aug 2006 at 3:11 am

    We’ll see what the data comes up with in the future…once its on the market and being used in real time. I have a feeling Pope Paul VI will be proved right once again. Links: Ales Rarus blog – “Plan B is Not Abortifacient”

  3. From RedBlueChristian » Blog Archive » Plan B is Not Abortifacient on 24 Aug 2006 at 9:50 am

    […] [cross-posted at Ales Rarus] […]

  4. From JivinJehoshaphat on 25 Aug 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Scientific Evidence Please… "Over and over and over again I see claims that this drug prevents the implantation of a human embryo yet over and over and over again I see no scientific studies provided to back up this assertion…."

  5. From 153 on 02 Sep 2006 at 2:32 am

    Plan B; dig deeper…

    The controversy over the recent approval by the FDA of Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, has taken an interesting twist. An otherwise strongly pro-life Catholic blog, Ales Rarus, has protested that Plan B is emphatically not an abortifacient (and thu…

  6. From Plan B: Preview of Literature Review | Science » Blog Archive » Plan B: Preview of Literature Review on 14 Sep 2006 at 12:42 pm

    […] In order to satisfay my own curiousity and my critics , I've begun a review scientific literature related to the question of whether or or not Plan B is abortifacient . Here are the articles currently on my reading list. Feel free to suggest others. […]

  7. From Plan B: Literature Review (Part I) | Science » Blog Archive » Plan B: Literature Review (Part I) on 17 Sep 2006 at 9:24 pm

    […] In order to satisfy my own curiousity and my critics, I've reviewed recent scientific literature related to the question of whether or or not Plan B is abortifacient. I do not wish to appear to be in any way "rooting" for Plan B and/or its supporters. I am not. However, I have been very frustrated by the way that many of my fellow pro-lifers have repeatedly stated confidently that Plan B sometimes acts after fertilization and is therefore abortifacient. I do not believe such confidence is supported by scientific evidence. The goal of this literature review is to present a fair appraisal of the likelihood of postfertilization effects caused by Plan B to the pro-life community. […]

  8. From Plan B: Not Abortifacient But Not a Panacea Either | Science » Blog Archive » Plan B: Not Abortifacient But Not a Panacea Either on 17 Sep 2006 at 9:26 pm

    […] When Karina at Netscape.com linked to yesterday's post about Plan B, she lumped me in with those whose "buzz on this ruling is overwhelmingly positive". While I do not believe that Plan B is abortifacient, and therefore needn't be fought by pro-lifers as such, that does not mean that I think over-the-counter access to it is a good idea. […]

  9. From Morning-after pill to be available without prescription » Netscape.com on 26 May 2007 at 5:55 am

    […] is overwhelmingly positive, as even many pro-life advocates acknowledge that use of Plan B is not akin to abortion.Update: WebMD has another related article focusing on questions and answers about Plan […]

  10. From Catholic hospitals may be forced to do abortions | Spero News on 01 Sep 2007 at 5:16 am

    […] or ask another one. Comments What evidence is there that Plan B interferes with implantation? I have yet to see convincing evidence that Plan B has any abortifacient effects whatsoever. by Funky Dung | Wednesday, May 02, 2007  11:57:56 AM View all […]

  11. From Morning-after pill to be available without prescription » Propeller on 05 Nov 2007 at 9:03 am

    […] is overwhelmingly positive, as even many pro-life advocates acknowledge that use of Plan B is not akin to abortion.Update: WebMD has another related article focusing on questions and answers about Plan […]

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