No, the Morning-After Pill Is Not the Abortion Pill

The other week, I was talking to a family member about the threats to contraception access in this country, “thanks” to our new president and his fanatical administration. He thought it was ridiculous that abortion opponents also fight tooth and nail to put obstacles in front of birth control — after all, reliable contraception prevents unintended pregnancies, which itself prevents untold abortions. It seems like a win-win for everyone, regardless of where their opinion on abortion falls.


The morning-after pill prevents pregnancy. The abortion pill ends pregnancy.


Then he said, “Of course, I understand them not wanting tax dollars going toward the morning-after pill, since that causes abortion.”

I had to stop him right there: “Nope.” A bit self-conscious of appearing to be a persnickety know-it-all, I summarized the vast differences between the morning-after pill and the abortion pill — differences that many people, even full supporters of reproductive rights, don’t understand. Opponents of abortion and contraception exploit this misunderstanding, pretending these two pills are one and the same, hoping to elicit “compromise” from “reasonable” people. Compromises that harm real people with real lives and real families. Just as women’s health opponents have been so successful at chipping away at abortion access, so too do they hope to erode access to contraception.

The morning-after pill and the abortion pill are completely different medications, used for different purposes and made up of different ingredients. Let’s look at a quick rundown of the two. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Angela Cotera for State Senator, LD 19

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, with early voting beginning on July 31. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Dr. Angela Cotera has experience living and working in multiple areas of Arizona. A graduate of Flagstaff High School, she worked on post-doctoral research at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory in Tucson. Dr. Cotera now lives in Avondale, where she seeks to represent Legislative District 19 in the Arizona State Senate. In addition to reproductive health care access, Dr. Cotera has made stronger schools and secure jobs key issues in her campaign.

She took the time for this interview on July 26, 2014.


“Our mothers fought for us and thought they had won, but it now it seems we have to fight yet again, this time for our daughters.”


Tell us a little about your background.

Arizona has been my home for 47 years, although I spent time in Texas and California while earning two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas and a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford.

I learned about the importance of Planned Parenthood from the stories my mother told me of the 11 children and one back-alley abortion that my grandmother endured in the 1930s. Planned Parenthood was also a part of my early-married life, helping me to achieve my twin goals of building both a loving marriage and a successful career.

You are an alumna of Emerge Arizona, an organization whose goal is to increase the number of Democratic women in public office. How did this program impact you, and why do you believe it’s important that these voices be heard and represented in the government?

Emerge Arizona literally changed my life. I had always been interested in running for office, but as a research astrophysicist, I really did not know how; thanks to Emerge, now I know. As you may imagine, coming from a field where only 12 percent are women, I am used to fighting for women to be recognized and given equal treatment. I know that we bring equal talent and abilities to the table, but often a different perspective. That perspective must be well represented within our government.

Your Democratic opponent in the LD 19 Senate race is Lupe Contreras, who signed the Center for Arizona Policy’s statement denouncing Roe v. Wade. How do your views on reproductive health care differ from those of your opponent? Why is it important to protect the gains set forth by Roe v. Wade?

The “Pro-Life Proclamation” that he signed called for all Arizona legislators to make sure that full citizenship rights begin the moment an egg is fertilized. This basically would mean that women have no more rights than an incubator, which is outrageous. I believe that all women have sovereignty over their own bodies, and no one has a right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do within her own body.  Continue reading

Supreme Court Rules Against Women in Hobby Lobby and Buffer Zone Cases

Five out of six male Supreme Court justices voted in favor of Hobby Lobby's right to deny full contraceptive benefits. Their opinion does not represent the entire male population. Photo: NARAL

Five out of six male Supreme Court justices voted in favor of Hobby Lobby’s right to deny full contraceptive benefits. Their opinion does not represent the entire male population. Photo: NARAL

On the morning of June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court (or should I say the men of the Supreme Court) ruled in favor of two corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, who argued that they should not have to provide insurance coverage for their employees’ birth control, as required by the Affordable Care Act, because of the business owners’ personal religious beliefs.

The court stated that when corporations are “closely held” and it can be shown that the owners operate the business consistently with certain religious beliefs, then these corporations can be exempted from federal laws that burden those religious beliefs.


Emergency contraception and IUDs work primarily by preventing fertilization, and won’t interfere with existing pregnancies.


The “beliefs” in question held by these two corporations concern two forms of birth control — emergency contraception and IUDs (intrauterine devices). But their “beliefs,” that emergency contraception and IUDs are abortifacients, aren’t rooted in actual science.

Here are the details.

Hobby Lobby believes that “life begins at conception.” They define “conception” as the time at which a sperm and egg combine to create a zygote.

The medical community, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), defines conception as the point at which a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. According to ACOG, the term “conception” properly means implantation. Continue reading

Mythbusting: Does Emergency Contraception Cause Abortion?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that one in nine sexually active women, or 5.8 million women, has used emergency contraceptive pills, such as Plan B. Emergency contraception is a woman’s back-up method to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, and women report using it when they feel their contraceptive method has failed, such as a broken condom, or they do not use a regular contraceptive like birth control pills.


The latest scientific evidence shows that Plan B works mainly by delaying ovulation — not by affecting a fertilized egg.


Some conservative politicians have been stating publicly that emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), such as Plan B, cause abortions. They may believe that life begins at conception (fertilization of the egg by the sperm) and argue that ECPs disrupt a fertilized egg’s ability to implant in the uterus, which they consider equivalent to abortion. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and experts from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health consider a pregnancy to be established when a fertilized egg settles itself on the wall of the uterus — implantation. A woman is most likely to become pregnant when she ovulates, which is usually about two weeks before her next period. Sperm can live for up to three days. So, if an egg is fertilized, there are still possibly six to 12 days before the implantation may take place.

When ECPs were first developed and information about them was submitted to the FDA for market approval, the drug manufacturers included mention of every possible mechanism on how the pill might work to prevent pregnancy. This included wording about preventing or delaying ovulation, making the sperm or egg less able to meet, and possibly preventing implantation. However, the latest scientific evidence has shown that ECPs such as Plan B mainly work by delaying ovulation — Plan B does not affect implantation and has no effect on existing pregnancies. Several prominent researchers have stated that if in fact Plan B disrupted implantation, it would be 100 percent effective at preventing a pregnancy, and that is not the case. Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 15: Fertility Awareness Education

Welcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.


Fertility awareness is not the same as the rhythm method.

Let’s start there.

It’s a common misconception that is, at best, a massive oversimplification that misconstrues the concept and may lead people to dismiss or deride fertility awareness out of hand. In reality, a lot of people could benefit from a more thorough understanding of fertility, as many sexually active couples spend a lot of their lives trying to control it — whether to avoid or achieve pregnancy. Planned Parenthood health centers provide education in fertility awareness-based methods (FAMs) for a variety of purposes.


If fertility awareness is not just the rhythm method, what is fertility awareness?

For someone having menstrual cycles, fertility awareness involves monitoring cycle signs and symptoms — predominantly cervical fluid and basal body temperature, though these are often supported or “cross referenced” by tracking other signs as well — in order to determine when a person is approaching ovulation and/or to confirm when ovulation has already taken place.

How does that even work?

Fertility awareness-based methods rely on a few underlying assumptions about fertility and the likelihood of conception:

  1. For pregnancy to happen, there must be both sperm and an ovum (egg) present.
  2. Ovulation — the release of an egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube — occurs once per menstrual cycle.
  3. Sperm can survive inside someone with a uterus for approximately five to six days. (Note: The actual number a given person or couple will want to use for this assumption can vary a bit depending on whether their main goal is to achieve or avoid pregnancy.)
  4. The ovum itself is viable in the fallopian tube for approximately one to two days. After that, it begins to disintegrate, and fertilization is not possible during that cycle. (Again, different couples may use different assumptions depending on their goals.) Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Teen_GroupA federal district court has decided that emergency contraception must be sold over the counter without any age restrictions. WOOO HOOO! (WaPo)
  • In a rare moment of common sense, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has decided to end her (losing) battle with Planned Parenthood. (RH Reality Check)
  • Why the pro-choice community needs to talk about the horrifying Gosnell abortion trial. (Jezebel)
  • A bill defining life at the “moment of fertilization” has been sent to the governor of Kansas to be signed into law after passing in both the state House and Senate. Ten bucks says another state will try to trump this ruling by declaring “life at the moment of ejaculation.” (Ms. Magazine)
  • Sorry, anti-choicers, you can no longer give away “fetus dolls” to students in New Mexico. (Raw Story)
  • Alabama is trying to go the way of its suckatcular neighbor, Mississippi, with regard to new stipulations on abortion clinics. (CNN)
  • A rash of radical “heartbeat” abortion bans are a growing threat to Roe v. Wade. (MSNBC)
  • Compared to those born in the 1970s, teens today are waiting longer to have sex. (Guttmacher)
  • Forbes rightly deduces that all the controversy over contraception misses the economic point. (Forbes)