In a Feb. 11 CNSNews.com article complaining that CVS pharmacies will stop selling tobacco products but continue to sell morning-after pills, Penny Starr repeatedly identifies one such pill, Plan B, as an "abortifacient" or "abortion-inducing drug." But even Starr admits that's not mainly how Plan B works.
Starr accurately cites Plan B's packaging, which states that it "works mainly by preventing ovulation, but she also asserts that Plan B "can prevent the implantation in the uterus of the developing embryo and thus end a human life."
Starr clearly does not understand what an abortifacient is. The National Catholic Reporter tries to clear things up:
To understand why scientists believe that the IUD, Plan B and Ella are not abortifacients, it is important first to understand the biology of conception. In order for a woman to become pregnant after sexual intercourse, her ovaries must release an egg (ovulation). Sperm can remain viable inside her reproductive tract for five days. Therefore, if intercourse takes place up to five days before ovulation or within two days after, both sperm and egg are viable and the egg cell can be fertilized.
Now, just because an egg is fertilized doesn't necessarily mean that it will develop into an embryo. For that to happen, the fertilized egg must be implanted into the endometrium that lines the uterus. Implantation happens seven days after fertilization, if it happens at all. Scientists estimate that, at a minimum, two-thirds of fertilized eggs fail to implant. Some scientists estimate that the number may even be as high as 80 percent, according to Discover Magazine.
For this reason, according to the medical definition, a woman is not considered pregnant until the developing embryo successfully implants the lining of the uterus.
Some church officials argue that a woman is pregnant at the moment of fertilization. If that is the case, then it follows that 60 to 80 percent of the time, this natural process results in a massive loss of life.
The Reporter goes on to explain why Plan B is not an abortifacient:
The drug Plan B is also artificial progestin and therefore impedes the sperm from entering the uterus in the same way as the IUD. But the drug can also stop the ovaries from releasing an egg. If an egg has already been released, Plan B can slow down the movement of the egg. By slowing down both the egg and the sperm, it prevents fertilization.
The effectiveness of Plan B drops considerably if given more than two days after intercourse. But even at its peak of effectiveness, it is only works 50 percent to 80 percent of the time. Some have argued that Plan B acts after fertilization by changing the uterine lining is such a way that implantation is impossible.
But according to Dr. Sandra Reznik, who also wrote for the January-February 2010 edition of CHA's Health Progress, if Plan B "involved a change in the endometrium, then one would expect a higher rate of success [in preventing pregnancy]. ... Taken together, there are biological, clinical and epidemiological data clearly indicating that Plan B's mechanism of action involves only pre-fertilization events."
For five years, staff at CHA collected, reviewed and summarized the great majority of articles on Plan B's mechanism of action, Ron Hamel explains in his article: "Virtually all of the evidence in the scientific literature indicates Plan B has little or no post-fertilization effect ... on the endometrium that would make it inhospitable to implantation."
Starr's boss, Terry Jeffrey, has also pushed the myth that Plan B is an "abortion-inducing drug."