Plan B: Not Abortifacient But Not a Panacea Either

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.

First of all, it's only going to worsen the already pervasive and pandemic contraceptive mentality in this country. However, that alone would be unsufficient grounds for banning Plan B or restricting access to it. If our opposition to Plan B is really based on its contribution to the culture of licentiousness, we'd be lobbying for condoms, the Pill, and various other prevalent forms of contraception, which I think we'd find difficult to justify or achieve in our pluralistic society. If we wish to counter the contraceptive mentality, we need to do so through leading by example. "They will know we are Christians by our love." That love should be so abundant and effusive that those outside of and weaker members within the Body of Christ should marvel at it and weep at its absense in their lives. Furthermore, that love should be so superabundant that in order to be fully expressed and nurtured it must become flesh and be born as our beloved children.

Getting back to the matter at hand, I would certainly not classify my reaction to wide availability to Plan B as "overwhelmingly positive". Nor would I characterize my sympathizers' reactions as such. I do not rejoice in the popular pursuit of sexual pleasure and gratification as ends unto themselves, divorced from their proper place in sacramental marriage. However, my primary discomfort with OTC availability of Plan B has more do with medicine and Hippocratic concerns than sexual morality.

"[M]ake a habit of two things – to help, or at least to do no harm." I'm not certain it won't do harm, especially if its administration cannot be monitored by health professionals. The birth control pill, aka the Pill, of which Plan B is a very large dose, requires a prescription. Providing Plan B over-the-counter seems an odd decision in that light. Also, offering it OTC to those over 18 while requiring prescriptions for minors seems unpracticable. If it's really important to restrict minors' access to the drug, there should be more concern that adults will purchase it OTC and give it to minors. Most serious, though, is how little is known about the long-term effects of taking Plan B once, let alone multiple doses. I worry that Plan B will become a frequent and commonplace fail-safe for when primary means of contraception fail or are not used – either carelessly or deliberately – rather than a rarely used emergency remedy. We just don't know what repeated use would do to a woman's health, and that worries me. I pray that Plan B doesn't kill people like RU-486 has.

In sum, while I do not believe Plan B is a form of chemical abortion that should be fought by the Culture of Life, I am certainly not overjoyed by the prospect of it being available without prescription.

Comments 6

  1. Tom Smith wrote:

    . . . this comment is a bit tangential. . . feel free to ignore. . .

    “In sum, while I do not believe Plan B is a form of chemical abortion that should be fought by the Culture of Life. . .”

    I may be reading too much into what you’ve said, and if I have, please correct me, but what you’ve described as a “culture of life” is primarily a *culture.* Being a culture, does it have a place fighting the legal structures of nations within which it is active? And if it does have the right to fight the laws of nations, why stop at abortion? If the “culture of life” rejects artificial contraception, why not also oppose them?

    Posted 25 Aug 2006 at 1:45 pm
  2. Matt wrote:

    Hi Funky,

    The only reason I said “supposedly” was because I had only read that one post. Since, I have looked around and its pretty apparent that you are in fact a Catholic Blogger. :-) I meant no disrespect whatsoever.

    I look forward to reading more as it comes. Not to mention, you’ll notice that it was your post that made me hold off on my original judgement on the matter, hence the “No Spin.”

    Posted 26 Aug 2006 at 2:33 pm
  3. Rob wrote:

    Two things:

    One, you’re not making any fans by arguing Plan B is not an abortificient. By being able to argue it’s an abortificient, it’s easier for people to oppose it and try to convince others to oppose it — whether it is an abortificient or not. Hence, you are the enemy to some folks.

    Two, Not once in this post (or in most comments and posts) do you mention what I consider to be the primary use of Plan B: rape.

    I’m not thrilled about it being restricted for that reason. Getting your parents to buy Plan B for you, when either Dad is the one doing the deed or where they will consider you as having damaged the family honor by getting raped, is not a good idea.

    Yeah, ideally, such children should go to a doctor and the police. All rapes should be reported and prosecuted. Having actually worked with young teens that have been raped, I know the difficulty in getting them to report a rape, and the trauma that reporting that rape can cause.

    Having known some rape victims, I also know the community response to rape. It’s not only people in backward, savage cultures that think rape is the fault of the woman…a lot of Americans (and Christians) take the attitude that “that child was asking for it.” A lot of cops think the child was asking for it. Some nurses and doctors think that. Some prosecutors don’t like to prosecute, because they feel the adult was enticed. No one wants to believe a parent or “upstanding” adult would do such a thing.

    I’ve seen too much. I have no trouble believing it.

    Look at what happened in that abuse case in California, where the Bishop hesitated to report the priest. Now the priest escaped, the Bishop might go to jail, and the children are being blamed for what’s happening to the Bishop. Who in their right mind would want to report molestation or rape when blame for a beloved figure’s incarceration could result? That’s the lesson learned there by children.

    I know the Catholic church would not permit the use of Plan B even in the case of the most brutal, abusive rape. I may not agree with your position on that. What I think of that position, I should probably not say. But I am willing to allow people to make that choice, and I wish the Catholics would give the non-Catholics the same freedom.

    Posted 26 Aug 2006 at 5:09 pm
  4. John wrote:

    “I worry that Plan B will become a frequent and commonplace fail-safe for when primary means of contraception fail or are not used – either carelessly or deliberately – rather than a rarely used emergency remedy. We just donít know what repeated use would do to a womanís health, and that worries me.”

    It’s possible that misuse of Plan B will cause health problems. But that’s why they print instructions on the side of the package. Half of all liver failurs in the country are the result of abuse of tylenol, but we still sell it over the counter. Over the counter does not mean perfect risk free.

    Posted 27 Aug 2006 at 12:34 am
  5. Lightwave wrote:

    I think I agree with several of the points in the original post, however …

    I?m not certain it won?t do harm, especially if its administration cannot be monitored by health professionals. The birth control pill, aka the Pill, of which Plan B is a very large dose, requires a prescription. Providing Plan B over-the-counter seems an odd decision in that light.

    I think this disregards the intended purpose of the drug. As emergency contraception, the speed with which the drug is required prohibits a visit to your doctor. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have *awsome* health coverage, and I still have to wait days to see my doctor, no matter how sick I am. I don’t think we want people going to our already overburdened ER’s to get this. And what about everyone who can’t afford a doctor’s visit? Shall this only be available to those with enough money to cover the drug and a doctor?

    Also, offering it OTC to those over 18 while requiring prescriptions for minors seems unpracticable.

    In fact this is a very normal practice. Think about all the things at a grocery store, pharmacy, or convience store that are not available to minors. Simply put, OTC doesn’t mean that it is not kept behind the counter, it just means it doesn’t require a doctor. If it is kept behind a pharmacy counter, it will certainly be more difficult to get than cigarettes.

    Before someone starts ranting that minors get their hands on stuff that is not available to minors all the time, let me say I understand the reality is any system can be circumvented. However, even requiring perscriptions can’t prevent circumvention.

    Posted 02 Sep 2006 at 11:03 pm
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I think this disregards the intended purpose of the drug. As emergency contraception, the speed with which the drug is required prohibits a visit to your doctor. I donít know about anyone else, but I have *awsome* health coverage, and I still have to wait days to see my doctor, no matter how sick I am. I donít think we want people going to our already overburdened ERís to get this. And what about everyone who canít afford a doctorís visit? Shall this only be available to those with enough money to cover the drug and a doctor?”

    Yours is not the first “prescription is too slow for Plan B” argument I’ve heard. If timing of drug delivery were the only problem to worry about, it’d be a very good argument. However, since I do not believe that the long-term effects of Plan B, especially from multiple doses, has been sufficiently studied, time to delivery is moot. Let’s find out if the drug’s safe before worrying about whether or not waiting for a prescription defeats the point of it as EC.

    Posted 04 Sep 2006 at 8:06 am

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 3

  1. From A Song Not Scored For Breathing on 30 Aug 2006 at 5:46 am

    Athanasius contra mundo tells his story of how Mary, especially as represented in the Miraculous Medal, came to be an important part of his devotional practice. Eric “Funky Dung” Williams presents Plan B: Not Abortifacient But Not a Panacea Either posted at Ales Rarus. He notes that while he does not believe that Plan B is abortifacient, and therefore neednít be fought by pro-lifers as such, that does not mean that he thinks over-the-counter access to it is a good idea. The related posts as

  2. From Plan B: Literature Review (Part I) @ Ales Rarus on 26 Apr 2007 at 10:41 am

    […] 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. […]

  3. From Plan B: Not Abortifacient But Not a Panacea Either @ Ales Rarus on 24 Jan 2008 at 1:40 pm

    […] Plan B: Not Abortifacient But Not a Panacea Either […]

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