Federal health minister eases
By Tony Gosgnach
morning-after pill rules
The federal health agency Health Canada is proposing to allow the dispensation of the abortifacient "morning-after pill" levonorgestrel without prescription from a physician and has established a time period ending August 5 for submissions from interested parties on the proposal.
Pro-life advocates note that despite Health Canada claims to the contrary, the pill - distributed in Canada by Montreal-based Paladin Laboratories, a subsidiary of Pharmascience Inc. - is abortifacient in nature at least part of the time, because it ensures an already-conceived human being cannot implant in his mother's uterine wall and thus proceed toward birth.
It is for that reason, and because of potentially deleterious health effects on the mother, that pro-life advocates are opposing the change in status. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration recently decided against allowing the availability of the morning-after pill without a prescription, because the safety of its use by young girls without a doctor's supervision has not been established.
According to Mike Izzotti, national co-ordinator for Pharmacists for Life International - Canada, the current Health Canada proposal shows a "blatant disregard" for the health of this country's citizens.
"The dangerous medical consequences to women of taking this high a dose of a steroid hormone - 50 times the dose of a daily birth-control pill - are obviously being overlooked by government officials," said Izzotti. This amounts to "a chemical assault on women and their unborn children, as well as an insult to the trusted health care profession of pharmacy."
Izzotti noted that some of the potential effects of the morning-after pill include an increase in ectopic pregnancies, increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases, blood clots and cervical cancer in women already infected with human papillomavirus.
He also criticized Health Canada's "deceptiveness" in referring to the morning-after pill as an "emergency contraceptive." A more accurate term, he said, would be "post-coital interception," as the same agency called it in a 1994 report on oral contraceptives.
"Many vulnerable women will be the recipients of this chemical procedure and even be coerced into taking this drug, without being informed of its abortifacient properties," said Izzotti.
Canadian Physicians for Life, in a 2000 statement, observed that "the common description of the MAP as 'emergency contraception' fails to accurately describe its abortifacient action and is misleading the public … The confusion is aggravated by the current attempt to re-define pregnancy as occurring after implantation."
The organization added that "the potential long-term impact of these high-hormone doses, especially when used repeatedly, is worrisome and not being adequately addressed."
The U.S.-based Population Research Institute has produced an in-depth, 65-page report on "Why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Should Not Approve the Over-the Counter Distribution of Morning After Pills," available freely on the internet at www.pop.org/under_the_table.pdf (the Adobe Acrobat program is required to view the document). A summary of the report can be found at http://www.pop.org/main.cfm?EID=552.
Pro-life advocates can use this information, as well as other articles that can be found through a search on LifeSite (www.lifesite.net), to compose a submission to the federal Department of Health opposing the availability of levonorgestrel without a doctor's prescription.
Submissions can be sent, by August 5, to: Karen Ash, Policy Division, Bureau of Policy, Therapeutic Products Directorate, Department of Health, Address Locator 3102C5, 1600 Scott St., Holland Cross, Tower B, 2nd Floor, Ottawa, Ont., K1A 0K9. Tel: (613) 957-6455; fax: (613) 941-6458; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.