Fox News repeatedly conflated the emergency contraceptive Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill) with abortion while covering two Supreme Court cases brought by companies that object to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control coverage benefits. However, experts agree that the morning-after pill is not abortion -- it prevents pregnancy but cannot stop pregnancy after fertilization takes place.
Supreme Court To Take Up Affordable Care Act Contraception Case
Supreme Court Agreed To Hear Cases On The ACA Mandate Requiring Employers To Offer Insurance Coverage For Birth Control. On November 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases brought by corporations that object to the Affordable Care Act's birth control coverage benefits. From CNN:
The justices agreed on Tuesday to review provisions in the Affordable Care Act requiring employers of a certain size to offer insurance coverage for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay.
At issue is whether private companies can refuse to do so on the claim it violates their religious beliefs.
The constitutional debate now shifts to the separate employer mandates and whether corporations themselves enjoy the same First Amendment rights as individuals.
Three federal appeals courts around the country have struck down the contraception coverage rule, while two other appeals courts have upheld it. That "circuit split" made a Supreme Court review more likely.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases involving for-profit corporations. Among the plaintiffs is Hobby Lobby, Inc. a nationwide chain of about 500 arts and crafts stores.
David Green and his family are the owners and say their Christian beliefs clash with parts of the law's mandates for comprehensive coverage. [CNN.com, 11/26/13]
Fox News Coverage Of The Hobby Lobby Case Referred To The Morning-After Pill As "Abortion"
Fox Guest Richard St. Paul Refers To Plan B As "The Abortion Pill." On the November 27 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Republican strategist Richard St. Paul argued that Hobby Lobby should not have to pay for "the abortion pill":
ST. PAUL: I think the Supreme Court will come down and say that what Hobby Lobby and their family foundation of believing in religious freedom, does have a right not to promote abortion among its employees. Basically what we are talking about whether Hobby Lobby should support, under Obamacare, the Plan B morning- after pill - whether they should pay for that. Hobby Lobby says we will provide contraceptives but we're not going to pay for the abortion pill, which they are right in line. [Fox News, Happening Now, 11/27/13]
Fox's Bream: "There Is Science" That Plan B Is An "Abortafacient." On the November 26 edition of Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream referred to Plan B as an abortion pill and argued that proponents of that view cite "science" that supports it:
BREAM: For people who believe that that's an abortafacient - that it can cause an abortion. And there is science that these folks cite. That's a different thing. They don't want to be funding an abortion, and there are guarantees in the federal law that they won't have to do that. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 11/26/13]
Fox's Childers And Guest Jay Sekulow Refer To Plan B As An Abortion Pill. On the November 27 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, guest host Heather Childers and guest Sekulow referred to Plan B pill as an abortifacient:
SEKULOW: [W]ith morning-after pill, which many consider to be abortifacient, in that case the idea that the government would compel the business employer to purchase that for their employees, we think goes too far and violates First Amendment's free exercise clause.
CHILDERS: And that's where the argument, there is some discrepancies between both sides. Because if you take the beginning of the statement from the White House that we just read, the first part of it said that the health care law puts women and families in control of their health care by covering vital preventative care, like cancer screenings and birth control free of charge. But that's where you know some organizations some groups, these specifically, Hobby Lobby being one of them and some of yours, they would argue that this does not just include preventative care and birth control, they would argue this would also include some procedures that are basically abortion.
SEKULOW: Yea well -- because it does. I mean the health care law mandates these despite the president's protests to contrary. The regulatory scheme that was implemented by HHS actually does include those very things you just mentioned. And if you take a look at Hobby Lobby's situation where they've got thousands of employees throughout the United States, a very successful company, the idea that government is telling the owners of Hobby Lobby, "look you surrender your right to free exercise of religion, your faith when you enter into commerce stream as a business. And you must acquire something for your employees that violates what you believe in, that's ridiculous! The Supreme Court has said that the right of freedom of speech does apply to corporations," the question here will be is does the free exercise of religion apply to corporations? [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/27/13]
But Experts Agree That The Morning-After Pill Does Not Induce Abortion
NY Times: Emergency Contraceptives Work To Prevent Ovulation, Not Implantation. The New York Times reported that emergency contraception works to preempt pregnancy. By delaying ovulation, Plan B stops an egg from being released for fertilization. Some emergency contraceptives may also work to thicken cervical mucus to make it more difficult for sperm to swim. Plan B does not stop implantation after fertilization has occurred:
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.
By 2007, scientific consensus was building that morning-after pills did not block implantation. In one study using fertilized eggs that would have been discarded from fertility clinics, Dr. Gemzell-Danielsson found that adding Plan B in a dish did not prevent them from attaching to cells that line the uterus. [The New York Times, 6/5/12]
International Federation Of Gynecology Obstetrics: Emergency Contraceptives "Do Not Inhibit Implantation." A 2012 statement by the International Federation of Gynecology Obstetrics with a section titled "Do not inhibit implantation," explained:
Two studies have estimated effectiveness of [emergency contraceptive pills] by confirming the cycle day by hormonal analysis (other studies used women's self-reported cycle date). In these studies, no pregnancies occurred in the women who took ECPs before ovulation while pregnancies occurred only in women who took ECPs on or after the day of ovulation, providing evidence that ECPs were unable to prevent implantation. [International Federation of Gynecology Obstetrics, March 2012]
Former Assistant Commissioner For Women's Health At FDA: It's "Factually Incorrect" To Refer To Plan B As An Abortafacient. Speaking to NPR, George Washington University professor of health policy Susan Wood decried the conflation of morning-after pills with abortion:
The constant references to Plan B and ella as abortion-causing pills frustrates, a professor of health policy at George Washington University and a former assistant commissioner for women's health at the FDA.
"It is not only factually incorrect, it is downright misleading. These products are not abortifacients," she says. "And their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one." [NPR.org, 2/21/13]