New York Times is confused

The New York Times has noticed something:

But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.

It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs. In contrast, RU-486, a medication prescribed for terminating pregnancies, destroys implanted embryos.

The notion that morning-after pills prevent eggs from implanting stems from the Food and Drug Administration’s decision during the drug-approval process to mention that possibility on the label — despite lack of scientific proof, scientists say, and objections by the manufacturer of Plan B, the pill on the market the longest. Leading scientists say studies since then provide strong evidence that Plan B does not prevent implantation, and no proof that a newer type of pill, Ella, does. Some abortion opponents said they remain unconvinced.

I’m not sure if the Times is being naive or if they’re trying to be even-handed, but you’re being silly if you believe that most groups fighting against the use of Plan B will change their opinion because of what science says. If you actually read the article you find that there has never been scientific evidence that it works by preventing implantation and yet for some reason that’s what anti-abortion groups talk about. At the end you even get:

Steps by government agencies or medical Web sites to revise language about implantation are already causing controversy. Recently, some abortion opponents criticized two agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services for online fact sheets that omit an implantation effect or say that science undermines it.

A department spokesman explained the fact sheets, saying “the public should have access to the most accurate and up-to-date scientific information available on matters of preventative health, including contraception.”

Critics said they wondered if scientists and government agencies were debunking an implantation effect because they support abortion rights. Jonathan Imbody, vice president of government relations for the Christian Medical Association, wrote on, that the fact sheets contradict Plan B’s abortion-inducing nature and raise questions about “whether ideological considerations are driving these decisions.”

Here’s what they actually say:

A recently revised web-based fact sheet[1] published by the HHS Office of Women’s Health appears to contradict FDA labeling on emergency contraception pills (levonorgestrel, also known as “Plan B,” “Plan B One-Step,” “Next Choice” and the “morning-after pill”). FDA labeling[2] indicates that emergency contraception can end the life of a developing human embryo by preventing implantation.

In other words, they don’t believe the updated science because it contradicts the original label which was based on fewer studies. Given how politics trumped science when it came to allowing Plan B to be sold over the counter, I wouldn’t be surprised if the label came about the same way.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. smith23429
    Jun 06, 2012 @ 17:21:32

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