Time falsely claimed that " 'morning-after' contraception pill" is "abortion-inducing"


A March 30 Time magazine article titled "A Pro-Choice Movement in Mexico" falsely described the " 'morning-after' contraception pill[]" as "abortion-inducing." In fact, the morning-after pill is an emergency contraceptive that works to prevent a pregnancy, rather than terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

From the March 30 Time article:

The numbers are equally grim around impoverished Latin America, where the United Nations estimates more than 4 million clandestine abortions are performed each year, resulting in more than 5,000 women's deaths. Underground abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in Chile. Although Chile has one of South America's strictest anti-abortion codes, it's estimated to have twice as many abortions each year (200,000) as Canada -- a country with twice Chile's population. (Abortion is legal in Canada.) As a result, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, late last year sanctioned the free distribution of abortion-inducing "morning-after" contraception pills at government-run hospitals. In a nation where three-fourths of the public say they oppose liberalizing the abortion law -- which, like Nicaragua's, bars abortion in all circumstances, even in cases of rape or when the mother's life is in danger -- women's rights groups concede Bachelet's contraceptive tack was the most legally and politically feasible for now.

Responding to the Time article, the weblog Feministing noted: "Emergency contraception is not abortion and will not cause an abortion." Indeed, as the Mayo Clinic explained:

The morning-after pill -- a form of emergency birth control -- is used to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant after she has had unprotected vaginal intercourse.


Human conception rarely occurs immediately after intercourse. Instead, it occurs as long as several days later, after ovulation. During the time between intercourse and conception, sperm continue to travel through the fallopian tube until the egg appears. So taking emergency birth control the "morning after" isn't too late to prevent pregnancy.


The morning-after pill is designed to be taken within 72 hours of intercourse with a second dose taken 12 hours later.


Morning-after pills aren't the same thing as the so-called abortion pill, or mifepristone (Mifeprex). Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy. The abortion pill terminates an established pregnancy -- one that has attached to the uterine wall and has already begun to develop.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "[e]mergency contraceptives contain the hormones estrogen and progestin (levonorgestrel), either separately or in combination." In approving one such emergency contraceptive pill, commonly referred to as "Plan B," the FDA noted that "Plan B works like a birth control pill to prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary." The FDA further explained that Plan B will not induce an abortion in women who are pregnant: "Plan B will not do anything to a fertilized egg already attached to the uterus. The pregnancy will continue." The Associated Press similarly reported on December 6, 2006, that, despite critics' claims to the contrary, the "morning after" contraceptive "has no effect on women who are already pregnant."

The FDA recently approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B, provided the woman is 18 years old or older.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Time Magazine
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