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Controvertial Contraception

The brand name ‘Plan B’ of the emergency contraception method commonly known as the ’morning after pill’ may soon be available without a prescription. On Feb. 15, a group of unaffiliated Gainesville feminists calling themselves "The Morning-After Pill Conspiracy" will have a press conference at the Civic Media Center at 11am. At the press conference, women will give their friends the Morning-After Pill to pressure the FDA to make it over-the-counter. The man in charge of making the decision, which will be announced sometime before Feb. 20, is FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan.

The University of Florida campus chapter of the National Organization for Women attended a hearing of the advisory committee to the FDA in Washington DC last Dec. Despite a 23-4 vote in favor of the pill being available over the counter, Kelly Mangan, vice president of Campus NOW is concerned that they still will not have the results they hope for. She said that although the commissioner usually decides according to the advisory committee, she fears that McClellan, whose brother is the White House press spokes person, Scott McClellan, will be pressured by President George W. Bush to decide against the pill. Forty-nine members of Congress who are against the pill wrote a letter to Bush asking him to put pressure on McClellan to decide in their favor.

The possibility also exists that McClellan will say he is unable to make the decision thereby leaving it in the hands of the state to decide. In this case, Mangan believes the state will enforce the “behind the counter” policy which leaves the matter at the discretion of the pharmacist. The behind the counter approach is already in place in Washington, California, Alaska, Hawaii and New Mexico.

“If anything at all, it should be done behind the counter,” said sophomore pharmacy school student Jamie Hall. “ It shouldn’t be right there on the shelf with Advil.”

But Mangan said, “It’s still leaving that reproductive decision in someone else’s hands. Women are the experts on their own lives, not clergymen or politicians.”

She stressed that ‘Plan B’ is a contraceptive that prevents pregnancy. She said that a lot of the problems they encounter in promoting their campaign is due to misinformation being circulated by the opposition. She said the morning after pill is often confused with a pill called RU486, also known as the French abortion.

“It’s totally not the same thing,” Mangan said.

When asked about the morning after pill, College Republican Ashlee Black said, “Isn’t it dangerous, hasn’t it killed people?” she later asked whether the pill in question was RU486.

Much of the debate has been fueled by whether or not using Plan B is an abortion.

“As Republicans, we believe there is life at conception,” said freshman-College Republican Katie Vitale.

According to the American Medical Association, pregnancy is defined by the embedding of an already fertilized egg into the uterine wall. Jamie Fisher, coordinator of health education programs at the UF Health Care Center, said that while there are inconclusive studies that show the morning after pill prevents the fertilized egg from being embedded into the uterine wall, the pill primarily delays ovulation, preventing the opportunity for sperm and egg to meet.

According to Fisher, one of the concerns in the health care community is misusage of the pill.

“Sometimes the individual health care providers take their moral judgments into consideration when deciding whether or not to prescribe the pill but there is no physical reason to deny the pill if requested multiple times,” she said. “Unless you’re eating them like Tic Tacs, it is impossible to overdose on the pill.”

Fisher said of the UF infirmary pharmacy, “We’ll see what happens after the FDA passes down the decision, at this point we don’t really have a plan.”

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