The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted yesterday to an announced agreement between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Barr Pharmaceuticals, maker of the Plan B “morning-after pill.” Dierdre McQuade, Director of Planning and Information at the Bishops Conference, said that the bishops strongly oppose plans to allow the drug, which often causes abortions, to be sold without a prescription.
The pharmaceutical company and the FDA, the government organization charged with regulating drugs, came to an agreement Wednesday that would lead to ready availability of Plan B within weeks, the New York Times reported. The FDA has been delaying a decision on Plan B for the past three years.
Barr Laboratories was reportedly told by the FDA to resubmit its application asking for approval for over-the-counter sales of the pill within two weeks. A spokeswoman for the FDA, Susan Bro, said the agency would act quickly on the application, thus making it likely that the pill will soon be available without a prescription.
While Barr says that Plan-B is a contraceptive drug, it is known to have abortifacient qualities. It works by injecting the body with a large dose of a powerful hormonal drug, one that is available only by prescription when used in smaller doses for contraception. It may act on a woman’s body in several ways. “The morning-after pill may prevent fertilization, or it may interfere with the implantation of the embryo in her mother’s womb,” Ms. McQuade said. “Such interference is best understood not as contraceptive but as a very early abortifacient action.”
The Catholic Church believes that human life begins at the moment the child is conceived, thus the forced expulsion of a living embryo would constitute an abortion.
McQuade said that the drug may not even succeed in its intended purpose and may pose a danger the women, “A number of studies have shown that readier access to emergency contraception does not lower unintended pregnancies or abortions. Such access may also lead to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Plan B fails the test of addressing an urgent medical need – a new human life is not a disease – and may expose women to greater harm.”