Abortion or emergency contraceptive?

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves new pill

It was announced Friday, August 13 2010 that the ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill (ella) has been approved. This pill prevents pregnancy if taken within five days of contraceptive failure or unprotected intercourse.

This is a prescription drug that has been available in Europe since May 2009. It is a progesterone agonist/antagonist that is thought to work by delaying or inhibiting ovulation.

"The safety and efficacy of ella were demonstrated in two phase [3] clinical trials," the FDA noted. "One study was a prospective, multi-center, open-label, single-arm trial conducted in the United States; the other was a randomized, multi-center, single-blind comparator-controlled trial conducted in the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland."

What are the side effects?

Like other emergency contraceptives already approved the side effects can include abdominal pain, dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, and pain or discomfort during menstruation (dysmenorrhea). The drug is manufactured by Laboratoire HRA Pharma based in Paris, France. The drug is not recommended for women who are breast-feeding, pregnant or think they might be pregnant.

Contraceptive or abortion?

The Planned Parenthood group was quick to commend the FDA's decision. "Every woman deserves every option available to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, and there are many reasons why a woman may face the risk of unintended pregnancy, from failure or improper use of birth control to sexual assault," Cecile Richards, the group's president, said in a statement. "The FDA's approval of this new form of emergency contraception gives women one more option."

The other side of the question has concerns that this is an abortion drug. Experts have stated that the drug works by delaying the ability of the ovaries to produce an egg. However, abortion opponents note that progesterone is also required to help the womb prepare for an already fertilized egg. This raises the possibility that the drug works similarly to RU-486, which prevents a fertilized egg from implantation in the womb.

Opponents of the drug are concerned that if the drug is sold as a contraceptive then women who would not take an abortion drug could be misled.

The approval by the FDA is as a contraceptive, not an abortion drug. Do your research and make your own decision as to whether or not this drug is appropriate for your use. As a prescription it will likely be covered under most health plans.