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Birth control issues roll around the globe

Bryan Edwards

The issue of birth control takes on many facets. Some people argue that any form of birth control is wrong, others that abortion is wrong, others that abortion should be allowed in certain circumstances and yet others that (subject only to limited constraints on the nature and timing of abortion) it should be freely available. Pharmaceutical technology has reached the point where the line between prevention of pregnancy and abortion are blurred. There are psychological, societal, medical, philosophical and, of course, religious dimensions to most of the debates where the word "rights" is bandied about by everyone with an opinion to express.

One of the most telling statements in favour of the repeal of the 8th Amendment is in this comment by the IFPA: "The unregulated use of abortion pills ordered online is increasing rapidly. Women are risking getting medication that could be inactive, inadequate or potentially harmful. And they have to use the medication without the care of a doctor or with only limited online support. "

PharmaTech has moved on a long way from the early days of "the Pill." Anti-abortionists argued against the contraceptive pill saying that there was a chance that a very early stage (maybe as early as hours) might be aborted. That, generally, has had no scientific support. However, there has been little resistance to the development of so-called "long acting reversible methods" including injections and implants and a variety of coils (a method many middle aged and older women would argue against based on the terrible injuries and illnesses suffered by many in the early days of such devices).

The "morning after pill" is sometimes seen as a means of inducing an abortion. It is therefore illegal in many countries, both for religious reasons and by some health campaigners who consider that the woman should have care following it. However, it is intended to prevent pregnancy, not terminate one. It is for this reason that its use is intended - if a woman can get it quickly - for as soon as possible after the "pregnancy event" has occurred. Attitudes and laws vary greatly around the world. The Mayo Clinic explains the drug and its use and availability in the USA.


That page explains the risks that must be assessed: these are risks that over the counter or over the internet sales place entirely on the woman who may be in distress or otherwise distracted. Importantly, "make sure you're not pregnant before using ulipristal. The effects of ulipristal on a developing baby are unknown. However, if you're already pregnant when you take levonorgestrel, the treatment will simply be ineffective and won't harm the developing baby. Also, if you're breast-feeding, ulipristal isn't recommended."

Abortion and birth control are debates that society and countries must have and they must remove entrenched attitudes on both sides, regardless of where those attitudes are founded. This is not this newspaper proselytising: it's because there is a huge human interest story hiding behind those positions.

Who better than the World Health Organisation to explain? Just read it and think of this: the number in the first key fact is almost the total (documented) population of Australia and Malaysia combined.