COLF raises concerns about morning-after pill's abortive potential

By  Art Babych, Canadian Catholic News
  • July 20, 2004
OTTAWA - The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) says the media and the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPA) have 'glossed over' the abortive potential of the so-called morning-after pill.

The federal government announced in May that it plans to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription across Canada. Currently, the pill is only available without prescription in British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
{sidebar id=2}The CPA applauded the announcement, calling it "a long overdue move and shows that the government recognizes the health and social benefits associated with preventing unintended pregnancies."

In a letter to the CPA released by the COLF July 7, Bishop Pierre Morissette, chair of the organization, took issue with the association's statement that the pill has the potential to "reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and the number of abortions performed."

Morissette wrote, "By contrast, the information from HeaLth Canada indicates that the pill either inhibits conception by preventing ovulation or inhibits implantation if conception has already taken place."

Morissette added that genetic science "demonstrates clearly that human life begins at conception not implantation." It is not possible to say in a particular case whether the pill prevents conception or implantation, he wrote.

"Women who accept that life begins at conception would refuse to take this pill if informed of its abortive potential," the COLF letter stated. "One can only imagine the impact if they learned of the pill's abortive potential after the fact."

The Catholic organization also wants the CPA to provide assurances that its members will inform women of the potential of the morning-after pill to act as an abortifacient.

As well, the COLF, sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, said it is concerned about "the apparent lack of a monitoring system for frequent use" of the pill.

The organization is also worried about a statement made by the Therapeutic Products Directorate last June in which it said,

"There is unlikely to be an increased risk of heart attack and stroke (associated with progestin use) with the short duration use of levonorgestrol for emergency contraception."

The COLF's letter, sent to CPA president Garth McCutcheon, asks what safeguards the association plans to put in place "to guard against frequent use particularly by adolescents who can easily go from pharmacy to pharmacy."

It also wants to know where the CPA stands on "respecting the freedom of conscience and religion of pharmacists" who do not want to distribute the pill.

Morissette said he is looking forward to hearing a response from the CPA to the COLF's concerns.

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