Plan B Sales Surge Due to Availability

WaPo fronts a seeming non-story: Now that Plan B is available over-the-counter rather than requiring a prescription, its sales are up. Shocking, that. Next they’ll tell me that sales of iPhones are way up over this time last year.

More interesting is the reaction.

“This is exactly what we hoped would happen,” said Susan F. Wood of the George Washington University School of Public Health. As assistant commissioner for women’s health and director of the Office of Women’s Health at the FDA, Wood pushed for the switch. “What we’re seeing is women who needed this product now finally having access to it. For a woman in that position, it can make a real difference in her life.”

I’m not sure whether someone can be said to “need” a product that terminates pregnancies in the early stages but, yes, the availability of products often results in more people using them.

But conservative groups that fought the change say they are disturbed by the surging use.

Right . . .

“This is very concerning,” said Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council, which is among several groups suing the FDA to reverse the decision. “We think this is putting women’s health at risk.”

Well, it’s interesting that the FRC thinks that. Are they right? What evidence do they have?

The story doesn’t say.

UPDATE: Charmaine’s husband, Jack, promises answers tonight. Maybe.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ugh says:

    I think their evidence is: Uhh, sex is bad, mmmkay?

  2. madmatt says:

    “I’m not sure whether someone can be said to “need” a product that terminates pregnancies in the early stages but, yes, the availability of products often results in more people using them.”

    It prevents fertilization which means no “pregnancy” is terminated…you should get your facts straight!

  3. By design it puts the health of an unborn girl at risk.

  4. Beldar says:

    There’s some risk to the adult sexually active female in almost everything connected to that activity, including both pregnancy and every mechanism for terminating one, and in every method of birth control (even if it’s only a potential latex rubber allergy). It’s hard to find any entirely risk-free activity.

    The FRC’s pronouncement only makes sense if it’s read to mean, “putting women’s health at unacceptable risk (as compared to alternatives).” And you’re right, Dr. Joyner, that to make such a pronouncement with any credibility, they ought to provide supporting data and discussion. By failing to do so, they leave themselves open to suspicion that what they’re really condemning — and on moral, rather than health/science grounds — is the sexual activity and the decisions to terminate pregnancies. If so, their hypocrisy tends to undercut even their moral arguments, and they’d have been better off presenting those arguments in those terms, unabashedly.

  5. DC Loser says:

    Didn’t the Freakonomics guys say that Roe v. Wade resulted in the decline in crime in the 90s? I should think that conservatives would applaude the wide use of Plan B as an anti-crime measure. That and removing lead paint.

  6. jeff b says:

    Well I guess you could say it was “terminating” pregnancy if you were an ignorant jackass. Here in reality we call it a contraceptive because it prevents pregnancy.

  7. John Burgess says:

    jeff b: There’s a longstanding dispute on the mechanism through which Plan B works. Does it prevent conception or does it prevent implantation of a fertilized egg (i.e., a zygote). It makes a difference to those who pay attention to the second argument.

    As best I can determine from reading on it, the answer is, ‘both’. That’s problematic for some, no problem at all for others.

  8. James Joyner says:

    As best I can determine from reading on it, the answer is, ‘both’. That’s problematic for some, no problem at all for others.

    Quite right. I can simultaneously acknowledge that Plan B goes beyond, say, condoms or birth control pills in “contraception” but think it should be legally available.

    I think government has a legitimate role in protecting the safety of fetuses beyond a certain stage. Zygotes, on the other hand, haven’t reached that stage.

  9. jeff b says:

    If people are going to get their panties in a twist over non-implanted fertilized eggs, they are going to be in for a big shock when they find out that millions of fertilized-but-not-implanted eggs get flushed down toilets every day. Most fertilized eggs never implant.

    Plan B (levonorgestrel) is completely ineffective when taken after ovulation, and very effective when taken before ovulation, therefore the evidence seems strong that levonorgestrel works by preventing ovulation.

    “ECPs do not interrupt an established pregnancy, defined by medical authorities such as the United States Food and Drug Administration/National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as beginning with
    implantation. Therefore, ECPs are not abortifacient.”

    Trussell, James and Raymond, Elizabeth: “Emergency Contraception: A Cost-Effective Approach to Preventing Unintended Pregnancy”

  10. candi says:

    This could account for the increase use of Plan B.Higher birth-control costs sting students

    “Facing steep increases in the price of birth control, many Houston-area college students are weighing whether to shell out several hundred more dollars each year, switch medications or just go without oral contraceptives. Prices have tripled at universities around the country, including Houston, because of a change in the Medicaid rebate law that discourages pharmaceutical companies from offering big discounts on medications to college health centers. Starting last week, the most popular oral contraceptive at the University of Houston’s health center, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, sold for $35 for a monthly pack, compared with the previous $10.

    Perhaps they should exempt contraceptives from the Medicaid rebate law.

  11. If people are going to get their panties in a twist over non-implanted fertilized
    eggs, they are going to be in for a big shock when they find out that millions of
    fertilized-but-not-implanted eggs get flushed down toilets every day. Most
    fertilized eggs never implant.

    And many grieve when they realize they’ve miscarried. Millions die of starvation with little grief outside of close acquaintances. The Iraqi civilian casualties are barely remembered in the U.S. compared to each individual U.S. troop death. This demonstrates the flawed world we fallen people live in as well as need to ration sympathy to those most visible to us.

  12. Kathy says:

    By design it puts the health of an unborn girl at risk.

    Uhhh, what unborn girl, Sean? I thought you fetus-worshippers believed that life begins at conception. So no conception, no life, right? Or are you now saying that life begins before conception?

  13. Kathy says:

    I think government has a legitimate role in protecting the safety of fetuses beyond a certain stage.

    James, please confirm for me then that you do support free medical care (both prenatal and psychotherapy if needed) as well as free and easy access to all services a low-income pregnant woman might need to assure her baby’s safety (food for the mother comes to mind, and possibly other services such as safe emergency housing).

  14. Beldar says:

    jeff b: Chill out, dude. I’m not sure whether you’re attacking me, or the people whose arguments I was paraphrasing (while I was in the process of agreeing with Dr. Joyner that they haven’t made their case well). But throwing around labels like “ignorant jackass” (especially when your own science is less than rock solid) doesn’t advance the discussion in either direction.

    Kathy: The law can recognize that something (someone) is a “person” for purposes of being protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States without also being required to conclude, in law or logic, that — as you seem to be arguing — all persons are legally entitled to be guaranteed any particular benefits at government expense. Free and easy everything would be “nice,” whether for new mothers or anyone else, and you can make good arguments that, as a matter of policy, the laws ought to be written to provide that. But there’s nothing logically or legally inconsistent in saying, “We’re going to protect you from murder (by criminalizing the acts of those who’d murder you), but we’re not going to give you a free room tonight (even if that refusal puts you at a greater indirect risk of perishing).”

  15. James Joyner says:

    But there’s nothing logically or legally inconsistent in saying, “We’re going to protect you from murder (by criminalizing the acts of those who’d murder you), but we’re not going to give you a free room tonight (even if that refusal puts you at a greater indirect risk of perishing).”

    Quite so.

  16. Beldar says:

    From the company’s prescribing info:

    Emergency contraceptives are not effective if the woman is already pregnant. Plan B® is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium). It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun.

    They’re defining pregnancy, then, as beginning only at or after the beginning of “the process of implantation.” I’m not suggesting that they’re being deliberately misleading, and I would in fact agree that if this is accurate, then that’s a significant difference between Plan B and RU-486 (a/k/a Mifeprex® or mifepristone, the so-called “morning after abortion pill”). But more common parlance, and at least some dictionaries, consider “pregnancy” as beginning with conception, not implantation.

    jeff b: You may have been referring to our host instead of, or as well as, me when you used the phrase “ignorant jackass.” If so, that’s all the more reason to chill out a bit, since it’s marginally less inappropriate to gratuitously insult another commenter than it is to insult our common host.

  17. Kathy says:

    But there’s nothing logically or legally inconsistent in saying, “We’re going to protect you from murder (by criminalizing the acts of those who’d murder you), but we’re not going to give you a free room tonight (even if that refusal puts you at a greater indirect risk of perishing).”

    Is there anything logically or legally consistent in saying, “We are going to protect your (the fetus) safety by criminalizing the act of intentionally ending a pregnancy; however, we are not going to protect your (the fetus)safety by making certain that your mother gets adequate prenatal care and is adequately nourished even if she cannot pay for prenatal care or food”?

    We are not talking about giving someone a room for the night here. We are talking about protecting the safety of a fetus by protecting the fetus’s source of life — the pregnant woman — and/or by ensuring the pregnant woman’s access to fee-based medical care and fee-based food to eat, without either of which the fetus will not be safe. There is nothing “indirect” about this protection. It is quite direct.

    If, as James wrote, the “government has a legitimate role in protecting the safety of fetuses beyond a certain stage,” then logical and legal consistency would dictate that the government has a legitimate role in protecting the safety of the women inside whose bodies the fetuses reside — because we care about the fetuses, and if the woman is malnourished or sick or cannot afford prenatal care, that could harm the fetus.

    I would also argue that if the government has a legitimate role in protecting the safety of fetuses “beyond a certain stage,” that legitimate role does not end at birth, but rather extends into the life of the fetus as a baby and a child. Where is the logic in positing a government interest in “protecting the safety of fetuses beyond a certain stage” while denying the existence of a government interest in protecting the safety of infants, babies, toddlers, preschoolers, children, and teenagers?

    You seem to believe that the government should step in to “protect” a fetus from being killed via abortion, but should not step in to prevent an infant from being killed by a rat attacking her while she sleeps, or by the ceiling falling on her head, because her mother has no money to pay for safe housing.

    Until I see some scrap of consistency in the positions of people like you and James, I will continue in my absolute, unshakeable conviction that both of you are motivated MORE by revulsion toward the idea that a woman has BOTH the right to decide when and whether to have sex AND the right to decide when and whether to have a baby, than you are by concern for the safety of fetuses or the belief that government has a legitimate interest in protecting the safety of fetuses.

  18. Kathy, if Plan B prevents a fertilized egg from continuing its process of development then I consider that an abortion. If it prevents the union of sperm and egg it’s contraception.

    No “fetus-worshiping” required.

  19. James Joyner says:

    Until I see some scrap of consistency in the positions of people like you and James, I will continue in my absolute, unshakeable conviction that both of you are motivated MORE by revulsion toward the idea that a woman has BOTH the right to decide when and whether to have sex AND the right to decide when and whether to have a baby, than you are by concern for the safety of fetuses or the belief that government has a legitimate interest in protecting the safety of fetuses.

    I don’t believe in socialism yet I believe the state has a fundamental duty to prevent people from being murdered. That’s not inconsistent.

    I support a woman’s right to determine whether to have babies but not her right to kill her baby.
    I think contraception should be legal. I’m more squeamish about Plan B than about traditional forms that aim at preventing fertilization but still think it should be available.

  20. G.A.Phillips says:

    I believe that no matter what your faith or so called religion from Christianity to atheism, if you take part in and or support the murder of the countless millions of helpless unborn babies, well not countless I think we are up to 45 million in this country alone, there is something very very very very much wrong with you.

    No worship required at all.

  21. Kathy says:

    I don’t believe in socialism yet I believe the state has a fundamental duty to prevent people from being murdered.

    Being murdered or being killed? Murder is a legal term. Abortion is not murder as long as abortion is legal. So it would be more accurate to say that you believe the state has a fundamental duty to prevent people from being killed.

    Even more accurately, in the context of pregnancy and abortion, you believe that the state has a fundamental duty to prevent fetuses from being killed. You do not believe the state has a fundamental duty to prevent people from being killed — because the word people is generally understood to include human life from birth onward and not just fetal life.

    I support a woman’s right to determine whether to have babies but not her right to kill her baby.

    Sorry, James, you can’t have it both ways. If you oppose a woman’s right to have an abortion, you do not support a woman’s right to determine whether to have babies.

  22. Kathy says:

    Kathy, if Plan B prevents a fertilized egg from continuing its process of development then I consider that an abortion. If it prevents the union of sperm and egg it’s contraception.

    Sean, you can consider it anything you want, but it’s a biological fact that a fertilized egg is not a pregnancy. Pregnancy does not occur until the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterine wall.

    For me, it does not matter to my support for abortion rights whether the sperm and egg are merely fertilized, or whether the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus: I support a woman’s right to use contraception AND emergency contraception AND to have an abortion. But the fact remains that if a woman uses Plan B and thereby prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall, she has NOT ended a pregnancy, because there WAS no pregnancy. This is a medical, biological reality you cannot change, Sean. A fertilized egg cannot, and will never, develop into anything. Development can only take place after implantation. Period, end of story.

  23. Kathy says:

    Even more accurately, in the context of pregnancy and abortion, you believe that the state has a fundamental duty to prevent fetuses from being killed.

    Actually, even this is not an accurate expression of James’ belief, as he has defended it. The most accurate way of restating James’ belief, as James has expressed it, is that he believes the state has a fundamental duty to prevent a pregnant woman from taking any positive action to kill a fetus. This is an important distinction, because a fetus can be killed through inaction as well. If a woman does not seek or receive appropriate prenatal care because she lacks the money to pay for it, and the fetus she is carrying dies in utero, then the fetus, in my view, has been killed. You could argue that it is still the woman who has killed her fetus, but if she does not have the economic resources to properly care for her fetus, and her government, which is supposed to represent her interests, does not provide and ensure her access to those resources, then said government is complicit in the death of the fetus and has, in truth, killed the fetus — or helped to kill it.

  24. Bandit says:

    Obviously you’re a mysoginist if you don’t believe in cradle to grave socialism for whatever facile argument lunatics can come up with next.