New “Plan B” Under Scrutiny in Europe

Cara Petitti

A new emergency contraception pill called Ellaone, launched in Europe during the Fall of 2009, has the ability to prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.

The single tablet pill, while not yet available in the United States, is a hormonal medication prescribed to prevent unwanted pregnancy resulting from the failure or lack of primary birth control.

Previously, a medication called Plan B or Levonelle was the most effective contraceptive on the market, preventing 60% of pregnancies within 72 hours of unprotected sex. The Plan B pill contains a high dose of Levonorgestrel, a hormone found in most birth control pills. This high dose prevents pregnancy by destroying an implanted embryo. In contrast however, the new Ellaone contains Ulipristal Acetate, a drug that delays the release of the egg and prevents implantation. In lab tests, the new morning after pill has been found to prevent 66% of pregnancies if taken within the first three days, and 50% of pregnancies if taken within five days.

However, the newly released pill does not come without controversy. Currently, the pill is only available by prescription in Europe as a result of criticism that Ellaone will promote promiscuity in young women. Many medical experts believe that if the contraceptive becomes available over the counter like Plan B, women will use it as a primary birth control method which may be damaging to their health.

Aside from the dangers of abusing the medication, many ethical issues have been brought up as well. Many pro-life organizations have not chastised the Plan B pill because of the possibility that fertilization may not always take place within the first 72 hours after unprotected sex. The five day period for Ellaone tells a different story. Most activists believe that the new pill should not fall under the contraceptive category because it terminates pregnancy after the fertilization and exhibits the qualities of abortive methods.

Disregarding the arguments of both sides, the distribution of Ellaone in the U.S. has not yet been planned. Many experts believe that because the pill is new on the market in Europe, a few more years of testing may be required before the medication is available by prescription to women in the United States.