DALLAS (BP)–On the first of December, a company called Watson Pharmaceuticals started promoting a new drug both on the Internet and in pharmacies. The Food and Drug Administration quietly issued approval of this drug last August. It’s called “ella” and it’s being marketed as an emergency contraceptive. The company says ella is more effective than Plan B, the “morning after pill.” What Watson’s promotional website and drug labeling information do not make clear is that ella can also function as an abortion drug.
Advocates for ella leave a lot out when they claim that it simply works to delay ovulation. Like Plan B, ella works to prevent fertilization of an egg. Or, the drug can prevent implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. And, finally, since ella is similar in its chemical makeup to the abortion drug RU-486, it can work to destroy an embryo that has already implanted in a woman’s uterus. Ella’s website specifically says it “is not an abortion pill.” It goes on to say that if used as directed, emergency contraceptives, or EC’s, do not work the same way as Mifeprex. Mifeprex is the marketing name for RU-486, which blocks the hormone progesterone that is vital to maintaining a pregnancy.
But Ella also blocks progesterone. It is the first emergency contraceptive available in the United States that works this way. The absence of progesterone could cause the death of the embryo because of its failure to attach to the mother. This is only “not abortion” if you define the beginning of pregnancy, not as conception, but as implantation. Lack of progesterone can also cause the embryo to starve to death after it has implanted. That is abortion by anyone’s definition.
Many women seeking emergency contraception might not care about the science. But some do. Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council points out: “The difference between preventing and destroying life is enormous.” Women should have all the information.
So should pharmacists — because some are morally opposed to providing drugs that cause abortion. The Family Research Council is asking pro-life Americans to let their pharmacies know that ella causes abortions and then to ask them not to stock it. FRC especially wants to see pressure exerted on major pharmacy chains. They have a link on their website — frc.org — to facilitate that.
Watson needed to get the “emergency contraceptive” designation. If Ella was labeled an abortifacient, it might not be eligible for current federal tax subsidies. Plus, as an abortion drug, it would have little chance of ever being available over-the-counter, as Plan B is.
Ella is supposed to be effective up to five days after intercourse. Package instructions say it’s not to be taken by anyone who is pregnant. But the drug’s label warns: “There is little information on whether ella would harm a developing baby.”
Any woman worried about harming a developing baby shouldn’t take ella.
Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the “Point of View” syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody Radio Networks.