BC's Pro-Choice Community Welcomes Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception
Media Release — For Immediate Release May 18, 2004
VANCOUVER — The Pro-Choice Action Network supports the federal government's announcement today to make it easier for provinces to make emergency contraception (the "morning after pill") available to Canadian women at pharmacies without a doctor's prescription.
"We've been waiting for this to happen, and it's wonderful news for women," said Joyce Arthur, spokesperson for the Pro-Choice Action Network. "Time is of the essence when your condom has broken. Being able to access the pill through a pharmacy on weekends and evenings has the potential to prevent thousands of abortions every year in Canada. For example, this drug has been available over-the-counter in BC since December 2000 and at least 1000 abortions have likely been prevented here so far."
Saskatchewan and Quebec have also made emergency contraception available at pharmacies. In all three provinces, pharmacists who want to participate must take a training and certification course so they can properly counsel and advise women. Women needing further medical attention, such as advice or treatment on sexually-transmitted diseases, are referred to doctors. There is no evidence to support the anti-abortion claim that easier availability of emergency contraception makes women or teenagers less safe, less responsible, or more promiscuous. It is simply a valuable tool to help prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. It is a higher dose of birth control pills, which are proven to be very safe for most women. In fact, any side effects associated with regular use of the pill are greatly diminished with emergency contraception, since it is taken infrequently, and the drug is completely gone from the body within days.
Emergency contraception is not an abortifacent, Arthur explained. "It generally works by inhibiting ovulation, and sometimes by preventing implantation of an already-fertilized egg," she said. "However, a pregnancy is not established until implantation, according to the medical community. That's likely because pregnancy cannot be detected before implantation, plus the majority of fertilized eggs are lost before implantation because of genetic defects or other flaws."