Misconception Leads to OK for "Morning-After" Pill

Some Virginia Lawmakers Unaware of Abortifacient Effects

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RICHMOND, Virginia, FEB. 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Virginia Senate has joined the House in voting to allow over-the-counter sales of "emergency contraceptives," apparently after family-planning advocates were able to convince some lawmakers that the drugs are not potentially abortifacient.



The bill, designed to increase women´s access to "morning-after" drugs, had broad, bipartisan support Tuesday as it passed the Senate on a 25-12 vote, after a 58-40 victory in the House earlier this month, the Washington Post reported today.

The Post reported that advocates claimed the morning-after pill does not cause abortions. The paper went on to contend the pills "prevent the ovulation that leads to pregnancy or stop a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman´s uterus, events that take place before medical experts believe pregnancy begins."

In fact, a pregnancy is already well under way before implantation.

In the February issue of the Life Issues Connector newsletter, Dr. J.C. Willke noted: "Conception (fertilization) consists of the union of sperm and ovum. The penetration of the ovum by the sperm, the integration and finally the beginning of the first cell division encompasses twenty-four hours. The medical name for this single cell is zygote. Then cell division occurs and, by the end of the first week, this tiny new human consists of several hundred cells.

"During that first week of life, this new human floats freely down the mother´s tube and, when one week old, give or take a day or two, this new living human implants within the nutrient lining of the womb."

Willke continued: "Understand what implants -- not the single cell fertilized egg, but a blastocyst, a developing human that is several hundred cells at this stage. ... When it reaches the womb, it is not a single cell, and if it still was, it could not implant. Only a one-week-old living human embryo can implant."

That kind of argument was apparently lost on anti-abortion lawmakers. "I think it´s an anti-abortion vote, in the sense that it prevents unwanted pregnancies," said Delegate Barnie K. Day (Patrick), a self-styled pro-life Democrat who supported the "emergency contraception" bill.

The two Virginia chambers must now work out a key difference on whether teen-agers younger than 18 should be required to get the consent of a parent before obtaining the pills, the Post said. The pills contain high doses of the same hormones found in birth control pills and are given within 72 hours of intercourse.

Governor James S. Gilmore III expressed concern today about possible side effects of taking high doses of contraceptives while not under a doctor´s care. He has not said whether he would veto the bill, the Post said.