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Facts Do Not Matter to Media Matters

In its attempt to “debunk” the claim that an abortion drug is included in the “preventive services” mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Media Matters ignores a glaring fact:  ella – a drug that is chemically similar to the FDA-approved abortion drug RU-486 – is included in the mandate. 

Unlike Plan B, which is a progestin-based drug, ella is – just like RU-486 – a selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM).  This means that though indicated as “contraception,” ella works the same way as RU-486, not Plan B.[1]  By blocking progesterone, a hormone necessary to build and maintain the uterine wall, ella and RU-486 can kill an already-implanted human embryo. 

Put another way – ella can abort a pregnancy, no matter whose definition of “pregnancy” is used.

When the FDA approved ella, it did not make any assurance that it would not disrupt a pregnancy.  In fact, the FDA said that ella may “affect” implantation.[2]  The FDA chose different language when it approved Plan B, saying it may “prevent” implantation but explicitly stating that once an embryo implanted, Plan B would not terminate the pregnancy.[3]

Moreover, scientific studies demonstrate that ella not only prevents implantation, but can harm an “established” pregnancy.  The FDA’s prescribing instructions for ella cite animal studies demonstrating high embryo-fetal loss.[4]  In addition, the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), the EU equivalent of the FDA, indicated that ella “is embryotoxic at low doses, when given to rats and rabbits.”[5]

Planned Parenthood, proud of the role it played in ella’s development,[6] provides significant misinformation about the drug.  Planned Parenthood’s background paper on ella cites a 1998 study for the proposition that “[e]mergency contraception prevents ovulation.  It has no impact on pregnancies that are already underway.”[7] However, to make this point, the study examined progestin-based drugs.  In fact, the study also acknowledges that RU-486, and similar drugs, could be used as “emergency contraception.”  There is no debate that RU-486 also causes abortions in “pregnancies that are already underway.” 

Such confusion of ella with Plan B – drugs that work in consequentially different ways – is prevalent throughout Planned Parenthood materials.  Major media outlets, and now Media Matters, also appear to be sweeping the facts about ella under the rug by focusing only on Plan B when discussing so-called “emergency contraception.”

Yet, even the discussion of Plan B tends to relay only half the story. 

Media Matters neglects to mention that Plan B can work by preventing the implantation of a human embryo.  This life-ending mechanism of action – required by the FDA to be included in the drug labeling for both ella[8] and Plan B[9] – is a legitimate and serious concern for many pro-life Americans.    

Media Matters, so focused on spin, has ignored significant facts.  Though the HHS mandate does not include RU-486, it does include the abortion-inducing drug ella.  Though labeled as “emergency contraception,” ella is undeniably a progesterone blocker, just like RU-486.  As the saying goes – a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Or, in the present case, abortion drugs by any other name are as objectionable to the consciences of pro-life Americans.

[1] The mechanism of action of ulipristal in human ovarian and endometrial tissue is identical to that of its parent compound mifepristone.”  Harrison & Mitroka, Defining Reality: The Potential Role of Pharmacists in Assessing the Impact of Progesterone Receptor Modulators and Misoprostol in Reproductive Health, 45 Annals Pharmacotherapy 115 (Jan. 2011).

[2] ella Labeling Information (Aug. 13, 2010), available at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022474s000lbl.pdf (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[3] Plan B Approved Labeling, available at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2006/021045s011_Plan_B_PRNTLBL.pdf (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[4] See ella Labeling Information supra note 2.

[5] European Medicines Agency, Evaluation of Medicines for Human Use: CHMP Assessment Report for Ellaone 16 (2009), available at http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/EPAR_-_Public_assessment_report/human/001027/WC500023673.pdf (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[6] See Planned Parenthood Fed’n of Am., Planned Parenthood Applauds Launch of a New Emergency Contraception in the U.S. (Dec. 1, 2010), available at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/planned-parenthood-applauds-launch-new-emergency-contraception-us-35386.htm (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[7] Planned Parenthood Fed’n of Am., Inc., Background on Ulipristal Acetate (Ella) (2010). 

[8] See ella Labeling Information supra note 2.

[9] See Plan B Labeling Information supra note 3.