Emergency contraception may be largely ineffective for many women. This stunning revelation came to light today after an announcement was made by the European manufacturer of a pill identical to Plan B, commonly known as the morning after pill in the United States, that they had changed the labeling on their emergency contraception packaging. This ineffectiveness of the emergency contraception came to light after several scientific studies were completed with similar results indicating that this type of emergency contraception may be much less effective in women weighing over 165 pounds and completely ineffective in women weighing over 176 pounds. Anecdotal evidence from practicing physicians indicates similar ineffectiveness of emergency contraception as well.
With the average of all American women weighing in at 166, and the average of American minority women weighing in at slightly heavier, the ramifications of this ineffectiveness are widespread. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to rule on whether American manufacturers of this type of emergency contraception (those relying on the active ingredient levonorgestrel) must change their labeling to include a warning about the ineffectiveness of the drug in women weighing in excess of 165 pounds soon.
The news indicating that this type of emergency contraception may be ineffective for many women comes at a time when many women are still struggling to get access to this same emergency contraception. There has been an ongoing conflict between some groups including between the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) within the past year over the proper age for access to these drugs. The FDA has come down on the side of allowing for access to women of all ages while the DHHS has endorsed allowing only women age fifteen and over to access this type of emergency contraception without a prescription. The DHHS’ position has been scaled back from their prior recommendation that these drugs be available only to those over age seventeen.
Just last June, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that certain limitations related to age and access must be lifted in that state. However, the struggle for unlimited access to emergency contraception continues.
As recently as October, however, protesters from the National Women’s Liberation (NWL) visited many pharmacies in Manhattan insisting that the emergency contraception known as the morning after pill be made more accessible to woman. The drug has traditionally been kept behind pharmacy counters or in a locked box where women have to specifically request that it be retrieved. The expense of this type of emergency contraception has also been a barrier to access. The cost of Plan B being generally about $50 per pill. Protesters believe that both the location in stores and the price of the pills should be treated as violation of New York law pertaining to access to the drugs.
Today though, it appears as though these battles may be all for naught, at least as far as more than half of American women are concerned. If emergency contraception is ineffective in greater than fifty per cent of the population, it may not matter for most how, when or if they are able to access it.