Serious consequences of making morning-after pill "as available as cough syrup"

LETTER — Posted April 5, 2004

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Regarding "Doctors assess impact of morning-after pill going OTC" (Article, Jan. 19): One of ways the "morning-after pill" works is to not allow the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus. Presumably, most women seeking this medication will do so when they are in the part of their menstrual cycle that they may get pregnant; it is likely this will be the usual way this medication works.

As noted in the referenced article, most advocates for "over-the-counter status" for the "morning-after pill" consider implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus to be the beginning of pregnancy. If implantation is prevented, a pregnancy is not terminated because, by the above definition, a pregnancy did not occur.

These are word games. That the word abortion is not used does not change the fact that a fertilized egg, with its unique genetic material, is purposely not being allowed to implant in the uterus. Many, if not most, people consider life to begin at conception. With this medication a new life is not given the chance to develop and, by an act of will, is being terminated. Thus, the term abortion, or chemical abortion, is appropriate.

This medication would be more available to victims of sexual assault. However, this probably would be a small segment of women seeking this medication. It is likely that it will be used more often to end inconvenient pregnancies, or those resulting from irresponsible or promiscuous behavior. Such behavior is likely to increase if this measure is adopted. ("What the heck, I can take the morning-after pill.") This medication does nothing to prevent other consequences of this behavior, some of which are fatal. It is unclear what long-term effects inappropriate use of this medication will have. Inappropriate use will certainly occur if this medication becomes "over the counter."

Society must take a long look at the consequences of this medication being as available as cough syrup. Besides moral and ethical questions, there are physical and mental health issues to be considered. If approved, it will be a step backward for society.

Stephen F. Spontak, MD, Homer Glen, Ill.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/04/05/edlt0405.htm.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn