The Canadian government announced that it intends to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription across the country.
Currently, the morning-after pill is available from a pharmacist without a prescription in only three provinces – British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced May 18 that the change is being made to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
“The fact that the drug would be available ‘behind-the-counter’ means that women would have timely access to the drug and receive professional health advice regarding its use,’ Pettigrew said, reported Canwest News Service.
“Women facing an emergency need timely access to this type of therapy,” Pettigrew said.
However, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), a joint project with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, asked that the government reconsider its position.
In a letter to the health minister fall, COLF said: “Women have the right to know that what is described as ‘emergency contraception’ may in reality be a form of early abortion.
“Pregnancy begins with conception not implantation. It is thus inaccurate to refer to this pill as emergency contraception, given its potential to act as an abortifacient,” it said.
COLF added that women, and teens in particular, need counseling, support and information on how the pill works.
The Catholic Health Association of Canada also opposes the government’s decision, since it is contrary to Church teachings on contraception and abortion.
Campaign Life Coalition took a very direct in a news release, asking: “Has the government gone mad?”
“If conception has already taken place, this pill will prevent the child, who has been conceived, from implanting in the mother’s womb. This is not prevention of a pregnancy but an abortifacient and the death of the child. The drug companies stand to make a fortune on this,” said the pro-life group’s president, Jim Hughes.
Under current provincial rules, pharmacists are not required to dispense the drug if they object for moral reasons. However, it is not clear if this will still be the case once the drug is made available prescription-free across the country in the upcoming months.