Officials at the Pentagon have announced military hospitals will now be required to carry Plan B and Next Choice, a pair of drugs referred to as “morning-after” pills for their ability to prevent – or as some contend, terminate – pregnancy shortly after sexual activity.
And despite the medication’s controversial nature as a potential abortifacient, Defense officials have offered no assurance that medical doctors will have the right of conscience in refusing to administer the drugs.
Defense spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says the Obama administration’s decision follows the recommendation of the Department of Defense’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, which voted 13-2 in favor of the new policy in November.
The morning-after drugs consist of high doses of a hormone found in many typical birth-control pills and are intended to prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours following unprotected sex.
“This independent expert panel made the right call: Women in the military serving overseas should be able to access [emergency contraception] the same way women stateside do,” said Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America in a statement. “It’s a tragedy that women in uniform have been denied such basic health care. We applaud the medical experts for standing up for military women.”
Several pro-life organizations, however, object to the pills, arguing that if the high-level hormones prevent an already fertilized egg from implanting in the woman’s uterus, the pills effectively act as an early-term, chemical abortion.
“It can prevent the embryo from implanting and therefore destroy a human life,” Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, told the Washington Post. “Women serving in the military deserve to know the truth about their medications. Because this can be the difference between preventing and destroying life, a requirement to carry this drug could violate the conscience rights of military personnel who have moral objections.”
WND contacted the Department of Defense to learn if there exist any provisions to protect military medical personnel’s right of conscious in distributing the pills, but a public affairs official admitted he simply didn’t know.
“I haven’t heard anything about that,” said the official. “I’m not aware of anyone raising any objections to this.”
And while Keenan at NARAL Pro-Choice America touts the Pentagon’s overturn of Bush-era policies restricting potentially abortive drugs as “an end to the political intrusion of the previous administration,” others see the current administration as the culprit of political machinations.
“The military needs to focus on its prime mission, yet leftists view it as a means to promote their agenda,” Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America told LifeNews.com. “The morning-after pill is highly ineffective in preventing pregnancies and completely useless in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. But it’s a political tool for abortion advocates.”
Wright also worries this decision is just the first in making abortion more and more available at military hospitals.
“By making this drug required, the next step will making drugs like RU-486, the abortion pill, mandatory,” she said. “And doctors or pharmacists who have objections will be purged from the ranks.”
Wright also worries about a newer morning-after pill, Ellaone, which a recent study published online in The Lancet medical journal claims is effective in eliminating 50 percent of pregnancies up to five days after unprotected sex.
Josephine Quintavalle of the Pro-Life Alliance told London’s Daily Mail, “If you take a morning-after pill within 24 hours, there is always the argument that the sperm may not have fertilized the egg by then, meaning pregnancy has not yet happened.
“But if this pill works for five days there is no argument,” she said. “This is not a contraceptive; it is an abortive agent.”
Wright told LifeNews.com, “Designating the morning-after pill as required to stock, and easy to obtain, may open the door for an abortion pill – which undisputedly kills an unborn child and can be extremely dangerous to the mother – to fit in that category.”