Women Win Birth-Control Battle
Finally, the secret is out. Taking a large dose of certain birth-control pills within seventy-two hours after intercourse is a safe, effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Doctors everywhere have known this fact for twenty years. In other industrialized countries, "morning-after" emergency contraception is advertised and commonly used.
But in the United States, religious conservatives hold women's health care hostage. Although many hospitals, family-planning clinics, and rape-crisis centers can and do prescribe off-label use of the pill for emergency contraception in this country, the majority of women are still in the dark.
Fearing controversy and potential lawsuits, American gynecologists, birth-control manufacturers, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have kept quiet about post-coital use of the pill.
Thanks to the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, the pill's other use finally hit U.S. newpapers this year. The Center has been waging a public campaign to push for women's access to emergency contraception. The FDA responded by setting up an advisory panel, which unanimously approved the use of six different brands of birth-control pills for emergency contraception at the end of June.
In large doses, the pill encourages the early onset of menstrual bleeding, flushing out a fertilized egg before it can implant in the uterus. Side effects can include nausea and vomiting, but emergency contraception is generally less traumatic and invasive than surgical abortion, and offers immediate relief for women who are afraid they are pregnant because of a failure in their regular method of birth control, or because they have been raped. …