News Articles

Pentagon mandates ‘morning-after’ pill

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Department of Defense now requires its military facilities around the world to stock a “morning-after” pill with abortion-causing effects.

The Pentagon confirmed May 14 to Baptist Press it implemented a policy in February mandating its full-service health care facilities stock the drug.

A Department of Defense (DoD) spokeswoman told BP in an e-mail that Next Choice, a brand name of the “morning-after” pill, “was added Feb 2010 to the BCF [Basic Core Formulary] following review by the DoD Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee at their Nov 2009 meeting. This means every military treatment facility must now stock the medication.”

The “morning-after” pill, which is marketed under the brands Next Choice and Plan B, is basically a heavier dose of birth control pills. Under the regimen, a woman takes a pill within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later. Another “morning-after” pill, Plan B One-step, can be taken in a single dose within 72 hours.

The drug, also known as “emergency contraception,” supposedly works to restrict ovulation in a woman or prevent fertilization. The pill, however, also can act after fertilization, thereby causing an abortion. This mechanism of the drug blocks implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall.

Fourteen Republican members of the House of Representatives wrote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates May 6 to express their concerns and to raise questions about the policy’s implementation. The congressmen told Gates they understood DoD had announced plans to add the “morning-after” pill to the BCF list and was in the process of implementing such a policy at its facilities in the United States and overseas.

The congressmen expressed concerns about the abortifacient properties of the pill, the possible adverse health impact on women and girls who use it repeatedly, the existence of parental consent protections in its use by minors and safeguards for the conscience rights of those who are asked to prescribe or dispense it.

The congressmen who asked Gates to address their questions about the policy were Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska; Trent Franks of Arizona; Mike Pence and Mark Souder, both of Indiana; Todd Akin of Missouri; Jim Jordan and Robert Latta, both of Ohio; Pete Olson of Texas; Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania; Chris Smith of New Jersey; J. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina; Doug Lamborn of Colorado; Donald Manzullo of Illinois; and Peter Hoekstra of Michigan.

The “morning-after” pill is available in the United States without a prescription to women 17 years of age and older. It also can be sold to men 17 and older. Girls 16 and younger must have a prescription to purchase the drug.

In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Plan B for sale by prescription. The FDA authorized the non-prescription sale of the drug to women 18 and older in 2006. It lowered the age for non-prescription sale to 17 after it chose not to challenge a judge’s ruling in 2009.

The FDA approved Next Choice and Plan B One-step for marketing in 2009.

Pro-life and pro-family advocates opposed initial approval and expansion of the sale of the “morning-after” pill.

“Allowing drugs with such powerful physiological and emotional effects to be sold over the counter to adults without a prescription will have significant consequences, none of them good,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, when the FDA approved non-prescription sale of the pill in 2006. “It will certainly result in the pharmacological, spontaneous abortion of large numbers of babies, who will be conceived but known only to God.”

Land and others also voiced concerns at the time about the greater vulnerability of under-age girls to adult men as a result of the pill’s over-the-counter status. He said he fears adult males will purchase the drug and use it to convince minor females they will not become pregnant. “It will become part of the sexual predator’s seduction kit,” Land said.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.