For ten years, scientists have known that the emergency contraception called the “morning-after pill” does not prevent a fertilized egg from implanting itself in the uterus. For ten years, the FDA and medical websites have inappropriately labeled the drug as possibly preventing a fertilized egg from implanting. For ten years, the manufacturer of the pill has asked for the labeling to be corrected. For ten years, the anti-choice faction in this country—including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney—has bludgeoned the drug as an “abortive pill” in its zealous crusade against choice.
The pill, also known as Plan B, actually delays ovulation—the release of the egg from the ovary. The fact that the drug is nicknamed the “morning-after pill” may have led to a misconception on the part of the public. It works the morning after intercourse, not the morning after fertilization. An egg usually isn’t fertilized immediately; it can take up to five days for the sperm to position itself properly. By delaying ovulation, emergency contraception allows enough time for sperm to die off before an egg is released.
After the New York Times began raising questions about the science behind the drug labeling, A.D.A.M., the firm that writes medical entries for the National Institutes of Health Web site, eliminated any passages that imply that emergency contraception disrupts implantation. The FDA has yet to make such a correction. Dr. Roger W. Harms, editor of the Mayo Clinic Web site says:
“We are ‘champing at the bit’ to revise the site’s entries, but are waiting for an official pronouncement from the FDA.”