WHAT OTHERS SAY: Lawmakers should ease access to Plan B contraception

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | 1:02 p.m. CDT

Contraceptive use is increasing. Abortions are declining. There's an absolute correlation between those two facts.

More access to the morning-after pill would help even more. So why are abortion opponents still trying to make "Plan B" pills tougher to get?

On April 5, a federal district judge in New York overturned an Obama administration rule preventing girls younger than 17 from buying emergency contraceptive pills over the counter. But in Missouri, a bill already had passed the state Senate to prevent pharmacists from having to stock such medication.

The "freedom of conscience act" for pharmacists is designed to protect them from having to sell things to which they are morally opposed, specifically emergency contraception, oral contraceptives and drugs that they consider to be abortion-inducing.

Though clearly aimed at female contraceptive drugs, Senate Bill 126, as written, would allow a pharmacist not to stock anything to which he or she was morally opposed. Condoms, for instance. Or aspirin. Or Tic Tacs.

So, depending on where you live and who owns the drugstores in your vicinity, your family planning options could be limited by your pharmacist.

Most pharmacies these days are part of national chains or mail-order operations. But in rare instances, the conscience of a complete stranger would be limiting women's family-planning options.

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, operates Sater Pharmacy in his southwest Missouri hometown. He called his legislation a "freedom of doing business" bill and said it is intended to protect the rights of business owners. Luckily for the women of Cassville, they have lots of other options nearby, including Walmart and Walgreen pharmacies.

Critics contend the measure is intended to curb sales of morning-after pills, and some Democrats said they opposed it for that reason.

No matter how much scientific information that says emergency contraception is not abortion is pumped into the debate, those who do not want women to control their own bodies won't let it go.

Their argument essentially is that a fertilized egg is a person, so any method of disrupting the egg's ability to attach to the uterus is abortion.

Most labeling that comes with pills used to prevent pregnancy after sex says the pills might work by blocking eggs from implanting in the uterus. But most of the scientific studies available say that is wrong.

They say the pills delay ovulation — the release of eggs from ovaries — which occurs before eggs are fertilized. Some of the pills work by thickening cervical mucus so sperm have trouble reaching the egg. Proponents of emergency contraception say the Food and Drug Administration allowed the implantation wording to be used for a variety of reasons, among them efforts to appease anti-abortion activists.

But people who don't want to be convinced will not be, no matter how much evidence is presented.

Yes, people of good faith can disagree on when human life begins. But the absolute fact is that when contraception devices and medications are offered inexpensively and used widely, fewer abortions occur.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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