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Morning after pill a 'threat to women's welfare'

The proposed over-the-counter availability of the Morning-After Pill Postinor-2 poses a threat to the physical, psychological and spiritual welfare of women, warns bioethics Adelaide Catholic bioethicist Dr John Fleming.

Dr Fleming said that in his view "the evidence is pretty clear that the Morning-After Pill is an abortifacient", although he said the manufacturers would not agree with this interpretation.

"Opponents of this view will say that it is not an abortifacient because you can only procure an abortion for someone who is pregnant and they believe a person is pregnant if and only if the embryo has already implanted in the uterus," said Dr Fleming, the director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute.

"We are saying that you can be pregnant prior to the embryo implanting and all the changes are beginning to take place as the egg has been fertilised and takes four or five days from fertilisation while the embryo is coming down the fallopian tube and hovering around the uterus before it imbeds in the uterine wall.

"The effect of this preparation (Postinor-2) in altering the uterine wall is to make it impossible for the fertilised egg, an embryo, to find its true home and the embryo is flushed out. That's why I regard it as an abortifacient."

Dr Fleming said Postinor-2 was first registered in October 2001 as an emergency contraceptive for oral use within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse but was available only on prescription.

The National Drugs and Poisons Committee has given initial approval for its sale without prescription through pharmacies and under the supervision of a pharmacist. It would be available over the counter from January 2004.

Dr Fleming said the Morning- After Pill acted in several different ways that were still not well understood, including causing changes to the lining of the uterus.

"It is this effect that may interfere with the implantation of an embryo, thereby inducing an early abortion," Dr Fleming said.

Southern Cross

Southern Cross Bioethics Institute
Morning after pill bad for women's health (Respect Life Office, Archdiocese of Melbourne)
Fact Sheet: Postinor-2 morning-after pill (Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations)
Postinor-2 ~ The Simple Emergency Contraceptive (Family Planning Western Australia

15 Aug 2003