On April 24, Aurora Beacon columnist Jeff Ward wrote a column titled “Your beliefs have nothing to do with my Rx.”
In it Ward argues that pharmacists who don’t want to sell Plan B and other oral contraceptives should not have become pharmacists in the first place.
He also argues that “the not so funny inevitabilities” of a moral stance that prohibits a pharmacist from dispensing Plan B would similarly keep Muslims from selling Nyquil (which contains alcohol) or “Jewish pharmacists wouldn’t fill Heparin prescriptions because that blood thinner is derived from pig intestines.”
Ward Claims Pro-Life Pharmacists Are Morally Inconsistent
He challenges the beliefs of these pharmacists, writing:
Far more often than not, these pharmacist refusals aren’t based on any real moral grounds, but … on the recalcitrant druggist’s quest for his or her 15 minutes.
Why don’t we ever see a druggist balk at filling a prescription for the antidepressants that list suicide as a potential side effect? Why haven’t we heard of a pharmacist refusing to sell the sleep aid Ambien because it can lead to hallucinations that result in death? Despite the mounting evidence of the dangers involved, why didn’t pharmacies stop carrying the diet drug fen-phen before it was pulled from the market?
Ward, of course, has no real knowledge of the thought process of those who are involved in these cases and is merely offering his opinion.
Pro-Lifer Responds To Ward’s Challenges
So, pro-life activist Eleanore Strong responded to his challenge, explaining exactly why Plan B is different from the other comparisons he makes, telling Ward, “Plan B is morally equivalent to abortion.” Strong explains:
It can prevent the implantation of a newly conceived human being into the lining of the uterus, causing its death. Some claim that pregnancy does not begin until implantation and that therefore this cannot technically be termed an abortion. But it is every bit the moral equivalent, because a life is ended.
The important thing to note here is that Plan B can function in this manner. This may not be its primary or intended means of working, but it can potentially abort a newly conceived baby. To a pro-lifer, this is murder, and a pro-life pharmacist reasonably would not want to be complicit in that death.
Ward Lashes Out
Instead of admitting that he has a different interpretation of when pregnancy begins, or admitting that being complicit in a potential abortion is a moral issue for some people, Ward lashed out at the pro-lifers who wrote to him, including Strong.
In an article with the headline, “Plan B confusion doesn’t bode well for our future” published on May 12, Ward criticizes the “factless backlash” in the letters he received.
Calling Strong an “eloquent writer,” he says her argument is “simply not true”:
Sure! There are plenty of Internet folks whose flappin’ fingers claim Plan B prevents implantation, but that doesn’t make it a fact. I spent more than four hours researching every aspect of levonorgestrel [Plan B]…
“All the medical evidence concludes the Plan B pill primarily works by inhibiting ovulation or possibly by preventing fertilization,” [Dr. James] Trussell said. “There is no evidence for the assertion it prevents implantation in the endometrium (uterus membrane)…”
Package Insert Explains How Plan B Works
Admittedly, I didn’t spend four hours reading about Plan B. Instead, I took a look at the package and the insert. In four places on the package and its insert you can read about how this pill works. In all four places it says it may work by preventing implantation.
Here’s a page from the pamphlet that comes with the pills:
So, according to the makers of the medication, Strong is correct.
FDA Recognizes Implantation Hazards
Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has posted the same information on their website about how Plan B works:
Plan B works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation).
So, according to the FDA, whose job is to research and approve drugs for human use, Strong is correct.
No One Really Knows How It Works
Even after all the testing the manufacturers did before they were allowed to begin producing and marketing the drug, they still couldn’t quite figure out how the chemicals works. The package insert says “Plan B is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by…” (emphasis added). They think they know why these chemicals might keep you from getting pregnant, but they’re not certain.
It sure is reassuring that the manufacturers think they know how this stuff works, right?
So the question becomes: In the absence of certainty, shouldn’t a person’s conscience protect him or her from potentially causing murder?
It’s also worth pointing out that there is no evidence that emergency contraception actually decreases pregnancy rates. So all of this discussion is really moot! Women are fighting to receive medication that probably doesn’t work, and, if it does work, it’s potentially killing a human being!
Ward Calls This Evidence “Fiction”
The package insert for standard birth control pills (click here to see) admits that prevention of implantation is also a possibility, since (as Ward agrees) Plan B is just “a ‘super’ birth control pill.” So Plan B does what a typical birth control pill does, it just does it later.
Unfortunately, instead of admitting that a pharmacist should have the option to not be the person prescribing medications that could directly cause death, Ward mocks pro-life pharmacists saying they are “withhold[ing] a drug based on a fiction.”
I fail to understand how information in four places on the package and the insert and on the FDA’s website is fiction.