Skip to main content /HEALTH with /HEALTH

On The Scene

Debate swirls over 'morning after' pill

Debate swirls over  'morning after' pill

(CNN) -- The debate surrounding the so-called morning-after pill is about to get even more heated. Some prominent health officials are calling for the FDA to allow the contraceptive pill, now only available by prescription, to become an over-the-counter drug. Anti-abortion groups strongly opposed the move. They say that the pill is nothing more than an easy method for abortion.

CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed the matter with anchor Bill Hemmer on American Morning.

GUPTA: Well, "emergency contraceptive pill" is sort-of a scary name, and what we're talking about is a pill that women take immediately after unprotected sex, and then again 12 hours later for the express purpose of preventing a pregnancy.

It's a hot topic for a couple of different reasons. First of all, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology released a statement and what it said was about half of the 6.3 million annual pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.

Emergency contraception holds the potential to cut this figure in half, which could substantially reduce the U.S. abortion rate of one in four pregnancies, the college said.

When you talk about these two particular pills, Preven and Plan B, as they are called, they specifically require a prescription. They have been requiring a prescription for the last three years, and now, 70 organizations say: "Why do we need a prescription for this pill?" If you take it earlier, it is more effective, so a prescription prohibits that from happening. Let's get rid of the prescription, let's make it over-the-counter. And that is the focus of this debate.

HEMMER: What are the pros and cons of doing this?

GUPTA: What this pill does, it actually prevents three things potentially from happening.

  • Ovulation, which actually prevents the eggs from getting down the fallopian tube in the first place
  • Fertilization, which prevents the egg and the sperm actually coming together
  • Implantation, which is sort of the third process predicating a pregnancy
  • Now, again, women have to take this either right after and 12 hours, or within about 72 hours, of unprotected sex. Again, with the express purpose of preventing pregnancy.

    Pros and cons: Well, one pro is that the pill seems to work. It's hard to measure this sort of thing because you're looking for not having a pregnancy. But most of the women that are actually polled that use this pill say they would take it and recommend it to others. It has few side effects.

    The cons, of course, Bill, many have associated this with being a pseudo-abortion pill. That is sort of the biggest stumbling point right now.

    HEMMER: And as we wait on this ultimate decision, it could come when, Sanjay?

    GUPTA: Well, the FDA still says it needs more studies. They want to make sure that it is easy to understand for potential consumers. They want to make sure that minors are addressed. Is this going to be something that requires parental notification, and they want to make sure that it is safe. And these are the things that the FDA will wait before they can actually make it an over-the-counter substance.




    Back to the top