Washington, DC--A review of U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) documents on contraceptives raises questions as to why HHS is apparently:
(a) contradicting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling in an HHS Office of Women’s Health document on emergency contraception, and–and whether ideological considerations are driving those decisions.
(b) leaving out vital information, in an HHS Office of Population Affairs document, about the drug’s post-fertilization, life-ending effect
A recently revised web-based fact sheet published by the HHS Office of Women’s Health appears to contradict FDA labeling on emergency contraception pills (levonorgestrel, also known as “Plan B,” “Plan B One-Step,” “Next Choice” and the “morning-after pill”). FDA labeling indicates that emergency contraception can end the life of a developing human embryo by preventing implantation.
The FDA notes, “Plan B One-Step is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium).”
In other words, the drug may prevent a living, developing human embryo from implanting in the womb, thus ending the life of the embryo. Because that information is a key concern for any women with pro-life conscience concerns, it must be presented to allow women fully informed consent in making their medical choices.
However, a recently revised version of the HHS Office of Women’s Health fact sheet casts the post-fertilization issue much differently than the FDA, asserting, “While it is possible that ECPs [emergency contraception pills] might work by keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, the most up-to-date research suggests that ECPs do not work in this way.” The fact sheet does not provide any scientific references to back up what is asserted to be “the most up-to-date research.”
A previous version of the HHS Office of Women’s Health fact sheet had included a distinct section entitled, “How does emergency contraception work?” The previous fact sheet noted, “Emergency contraception can keep you from becoming pregnant by: Keeping the egg from leaving the ovary; OR Keeping the sperm from meeting the egg, OR Keeping the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus (womb).”
The newly revised HHS document also refers readers for more information to (a) the FDA, (b) http://ec.princeton.edu/ and (c) Planned Parenthood. Both the original and revised HHS documents state that they were reviewed by James Trussell, PhD, Director of Office of Population Research at Princeton and a member of an FDA advisory panel that in 2003 recommended that Plan B be sold over the counter.
Another HHS fact sheet on emergency contraception, produced by the agency’s Office of Population Affairs, notes only that “Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy mainly by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs. Emergency contraception also works by causing the cervical mucus to thicken, which blocks sperm from meeting with and fertilizing an egg.” The fact sheet does not mention at all the potential post-fertilization, life-ending effect of the drug.
Since 2002, the HHS Office of Public Health and Science has provided a process by which individuals and organizations can protest and request correction of wrong or incomplete public information disseminated by HHS.
The conspicuous omission of vital medical information needed to provide women with fully informed consent regarding emergency contraception, coupled with unsubstantiated assertions that contradict FDA labeling, lay the administration open to charges that it is advancing abortion ideology over science and violating President Obama’s barbed pledge in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place.”
CMDA Ethics Statement: Abortion