Bioethics News

Has the morning after pill mechanism only an anticonceptive effect

Why is the morning after pill mechanism often silenced?

Teenage pregnancy is a significant public health issue.(1) Worldwide, some 15 million pregnancies occur every year among young women aged 15 to 19,(2) approximately 1.25 million in the 28 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations,(3) and between 750.000 and 850.000 in the United States.(4)

As is well known, an estimated fifth of pregnancies World Wide ended in abortion. In Europe this proportion was nearer a third.(5)

Among the various measures proposed is emergency contraception, understanding as such those back up methods for contraceptive emergencies which women can back up methods for contraceptive emergencies which women can use within the first few days after unprotected sexual intercourse or in the event of potential contraceptive failure, to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.(6) However, the morning-after pill, the active substance of which is levonorgestrel (LNG), is undoubtedly the most widely used method. In Spain alone 506.000 units were issued in 2002.(7)

Levonogestrel, the morning after pill mechanism

The oral preparation is marketed as two tablets containing 750 Ìg of levonorgestrel each or as one 1500 Ìg tablet. In either case, it is currently recommended to take 1500 Ìg as a single dose, as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse.(8) In order to make an ethical evaluation on the use of the morning-after pill, we believe that the main aspect to take into consideration is its mechanism of action since, depending on whether it is anovulatory or prevents implantation, the ethical judgement on its use will be different.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.