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Misinformation Fuels Confusion Over Differences Between Emergency Contraception, Medication Abortion

Misinformation Fuels Confusion Over Differences Between Emergency Contraception, Medication Abortion

April 27, 2012 — Calling emergency contraception the "abortion pill" is scientifically incorrect and fuels confusion among the public and even abortion-rights supporters, Irin Carmon writes in Salon.

Carmon explains that EC, like all hormonal contraception, prevents pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation, although EC may also prevent fertilization if ovulation already has occurred. It is not the same as the medication abortion drug mifepristone, which ends an early pregnancy.

Although research shows there is "no evidence that taking [EC] after ovulation and fertilization will stop the egg from implanting," this fact has not stopped the "personhood" movement and conservative groups like Focus on the Family from "strategically" referring to EC as abortion-inducing, Carmon adds. She also notes that in February, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quoted as saying that the federal contraceptive coverage rules would force religious employers to provide "morning-after pills -- in other words, abortive pills -- and the like, at no cost."

Carmon writes that there are "disturbing suggestions that misinformation is triumphing" with regard to EC. A recent study found that many pharmacists do not know that EC is available without a prescription for people ages 17 and older. Meanwhile, while no state has been able to enact so-called "personhood" legislation to give rights to fertilized eggs, the introduction of such measures in multiple states continues to create opportunities for pundits and legislators to misuse terms and further confuse the public.

The Obama administration also stepped into the fray when it overruled FDA's decision to remove age restrictions on nonprescription access to EC. Carmon notes that in a "twist" that has gone mostly unnoticed, the age restrictions mean that EC may not be included under the contraceptive coverage rules for women older than age 17 because they can purchase it without a prescription. However, they could "decide to jump through the hoops of getting a prescription" so that their insurance would pay for it, she adds. Meanwhile, EC will automatically be covered for girls ages 16 and younger because they are required to have a prescription (Carmon, Salon, 4/26).