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LIFE DIGEST: ‘Morning-after’ pill does not reduce abortions, British expert reports; another abortion clinic is shut down

WASHINGTON (BP)–The “morning-after” pill has not reduced abortions in Great Britain and other European countries, refuting predictions by some of its proponents, a family planning specialist said Sept. 16.

Ten studies showed providing women with the pill, also known as emergency contraception, resulted in a two- or three-fold increase in its use without a measurable impact on the rates of abortion and pregnancy, Anna Glasier wrote in the British Medical Journal, according to HealthDay News. Glasier is director of family planning at a National Health Service facility in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The abortion rate in Britain actually has increased during a two-decade period in which use of emergency contraception has also grown.

The “morning-after” pill, which is basically a heavier dose of birth control pills, has abortion-causing properties. Under the regimen, a woman takes two pills within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later. The “morning-after” pill works to restrict ovulation in a woman. It also can act after conception, thereby causing an abortion, pro-lifers point out. This mechanism of the drug blocks implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall.

The British report follows by only weeks a successful effort pushed by abortion-rights advocates and others to gain approval in the United States for non-prescription sale of the “morning-after” pill to adults. Critics of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new policy contend it will not only destroy tiny human embryos but make it difficult to keep out of the hands of underage girls and undermine parental rights in the process.

Only one percent of women in Great Britain used the “morning-after” pill in 1984, while 12 percent utilized it by 2002, HealthDay News reported. Meanwhile, the abortion rate increased from 11 per 1,000 women age 15 to 44 in 1984 to 17.8 per 1,000 women in 2004, according to the report.

“So, despite significant increases in the use of emergency contraception in the U.K. over the past 20 years, abortion rates continue to rise, and in Sweden and France the same holds true,” Glasier said, according to HealthDay News.

A spokesperson for the British government denied the “morning-after” pill was intended to reduce abortions.

Glasier rejected that claim, however, saying many proponents of emergency contraception predicted it would cut the abortion rate, BBC News reported.

In the United States, the FDA’s new policy will make the “morning-after” pill known as Plan B available without a prescription for use by women 18 and older. Females 17 and under will need a prescription, a requirement previously for women of all ages. Plan B will be available for purchase at pharmacies and health clinics. It is to be kept in stock behind the counter at each pharmacy, so proof of age can be checked, according to the FDA.

CLINIC CLOSES — Another abortion clinic will close, this time in Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Health will shut down a Cleveland abortion clinic in September, bringing to at least 11 the number of such facilities that have been shut down at least temporarily since mid-June.

The Department of Health found the Center for Women’s Health in Cleveland did not have arrangements with hospitals for the transfer of patients in emergency situations, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. In one case, the clinic had problems finding a hospital that would accept a patient with complications after a second-trimester abortion, according to The Plain Dealer. The clinic also failed to provide routine treatment, according to the report.

“[There were] six to seven patients where there was no record that their temperature or blood pressure had been taken before the procedure,” said Roy Croy, a Department of Health spokesman, according to the newspaper. “These are things that should be done before you start surgery.”

The Center for Women’s Health has been one of the few abortion clinics in the Midwest that perform abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, The Plain Dealer reported.

During the last three months, operations have been shut down at abortion clinics in Alabama, Florida, Kansas and Nebraska. Two of the clinics in Florida reopened shortly after being closed.

The closings continue a trend for abortion providers during the last two decades. The number of abortion providers in the United States has decreased by 37 percent since 1982, according to a 2003 report published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute. That same study showed 87 percent of U.S. counties do not have an abortion provider.

JUSTICE DENIED — An Australian medical board will not invoke a disciplinary process for five doctors for their participation in the abortion of a child diagnosed with dwarfism.

The Australia Medical Practitioners Board announced Sept. 15 it would not take action against the doctors, who performed the abortion in 2001, according to LifeNews.com.

Sen. Julian McGauran, a pro-life Liberal Party member, had pressed for an investigation, saying the unborn child’s condition was not a basis for aborting him at 32 weeks of gestation, LifeNews reported. McGauran had urged the medical board to perform a review to see if any laws had been violated by the abortion.