Group to promote use of emergency contraception pills

Amy Hackbarth

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota wants to educate college students about emergency contraceptives with a campaign that will hit the University and 16 other state campuses April 1.

Education is the focus of the campaign for the controversial pills, said Amy Brugh, public affairs associate for the organization.

“If more people were aware of emergency contraception, there would be less unintended pregnancies and less abortions,” she said.

Emergency contraception pills, which contain the hormone progesterone, can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. One pill should be taken as soon as possible after the event, because the effectiveness decreases with time, said Val Miller, nurse practitioner from the Women’s Health Clinic at Boynton Health Service. A second tablet should be taken 12 hours later.

If taken within 72 hours of an incident, the contraception can prevent ovulation with a method similar to that of birth control pills. In case ovulation does occur, the emergency contraception pills also alter the uterine lining to prevent an egg from attaching to the uterus.

If a woman is already pregnant from a previous encounter, the drug won’t terminate her pregnancy, Miller said.

“It’s ordinary birth control,” Brugh said. “It’s not abortion.”

Still, some organizations consider the termination of a fertilized egg – implanted or not – to be a form of abortion.

“Life begins at conception, when sperm fertilizes an egg,” said Deb Braun, director of education at Pro-Life Action Ministries. “Emergency contraception can kill a very early embryo, so it’s abortion.”

The Students for New Life Women’s Center, a University student group providing pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and counseling to students, opposes emergency contraception – which is 95 percent effective – because they say it is not foolproof. Instead, the center recommends only abstinence as protection against pregnancy.

“The only thing we refer, advertise and support is abstinence, because it’s the only 100 percent effective method of birth control,” said Lori Goold, the center’s branch manager.

The Women’s Health Clinic provides two kinds of emergency contraception for University students who worry about pregnancy.

Many students who can’t stand waiting to see if they’re pregnant take the pills, Miller said.

“They have to wait 14 days to see if they’re pregnant, so all they can do is sit and fret,” Miller said. “If there’s something they can do that will decrease the risk, they’d rather do it.”

The clinic provides contraception for students who have recently had unprotected sex as well as students who keep the pills in preparation for accidents.

“A lot of people have them just in case they have an accident,” Miller said. “Or if they go on vacation, and they don’t want to deal with people or hospitals in strange cities.”

Brugh said Planned Parenthood encourages having emergency contraceptives around as a backup method of protection, rather than as a primary means of protection against pregnancy.

“If there’s an accident, we want people to use the pills as a backup,” she said. “It’s sort of like a second chance.”

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]