While abortion may be the primary topic that the anti-choice movement talks about, their policy agenda extends to birth control. Limiting access to abortion is just one piece of a broader effort to curb women’s reproductive freedoms. How do we know this? Because anti-choice extremists have said on the record that the birth control pill is a threat to “God” and “the family.” But there’s one pill in particular that anti-choice extremists have worked tirelessly to equate — erroneously — with abortion: emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill.
EC is key to women’s reproductive health, for the simple reason that sex sometimes happens when you didn’t expect it to in the days or weeks before. There’s nothing to be ashamed of should it occur. However, if a woman is unable to rely on her regular form of birth control — for whatever reason — and ends up having sex, she should be able to have a backup plan. That’s where EC comes in. My time working and volunteering with both Planned Parenthood and NARAL has taught me that EC is one of the most critical forms of birth control that all women should be able to have access to. It provides women with a safety net in many circumstances. In fact, in Washington State, it is required that EC be offered to victims of sexual assault in the emergency room.
It is absolutely critical — and a matter of access to basic healthcare — that women are able to use EC when they need it. But unfortunately, EC is considered a target by the anti-choice movement who refer to it — incorrectly — as “the abortion pill.” This inflammatory rhetoric is based on the idea that EC causes a spontaneous abortion if a woman is already pregnant. But as with so many other claims anti-choice extremists make about women’s reproductive healthcare options, it’s a lie.
Here’s the thing about conception. It doesn’t actually happen in the moment of or even in the first few hours after sex. That’s the reason that emergency contraception can be taken 3-5 days after having unprotected sex. Pregnancy occurs around this time when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall. EC prevents pregnancy by preventing the egg from attaching to said wall. There have also been studies which show that emergency contraception also works to keep the sperm and the egg from finding each other to begin with. The morning-after pill has no effect if a woman is already pregnant — just ask any woman who’s taken EC and had it fail. Furthermore, the only way EC can be called a contraceptive to begin with is because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has investigated it and classified it as such.
So if EC isn’t “the abortion pill,” what is? Well, there is an abortion drug called RU-486, or mifepristone. Often, when anti-choice politicians claim that EC causes abortion, they are, in fact, referring to mifepristone. It’s a shame that anti-choice politicians generally do not educate themselves on the difference between EC and drugs that do induce abortion. Because there is a big difference. One works to prevent pregnancy before one has occurred and the other ends a pregnancy after it has occurred. Another interesting difference is that Plan B is covered by Obamacare, but mifepristone is not (although it is my personal opinion that mifepristone should also be too).
Why is it important to know the difference between emergency contraception and abortion drugs like mifepristone? Because it’s better that both of them aren’t in danger of being denied to women at the same time. What the anti-abortion movement is attempting to do is to kill two birds with one stone. It looks to me like they want to be able to drag Plan B and other emergency contraceptives down along with safe and legal abortion should they achieve a legal or legislative victory.
With the Hobby Lobby Case in the Supreme Court docket, there is a risk that companies could be allowed by the Supreme Court to make decisions about their employees’ reproductive health based upon the religious beliefs of those in charge of the company. Should this occur it can be assumed that anti-choicers will do whatever is necessary to limit the access to reproductive choice that their employees have. Tricking the American public into thinking that there is no difference between Plan B and an abortion drug will make limiting these choices that much easier. And as we’ve seen in the past, manipulation and misinformation are some of the greatest weapons used to limit human rights.