A Woman's Choice

Emergency Contraception

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC), which is commonly called the “morning-after pill,” was designed to be taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. This pill is very similar to the birth control pill except that it contains a higher dosage of levonorgestrel then most pills. However, unlike many birth control pills, it does not contain any estrogen, but instead only progestin.i In the United States, there are three brands of EC: Next Choice, Plan B, and Plan B One-Step.

How does emergency contraception work?
Emergency contraception can work in three different ways:

  1. It may prevent or delay ovulation, inhibiting an egg from being released from a woman’s ovary.
  2. It may prevent the egg from being fertilized if it has already been released.
  3. If the egg has been released and fertilized, it may prevent implantation.ii

Can a woman know which action will take place in her body?
No, a woman has no way of knowing which way EC will take effect in her body because there are many variables involved. Such as, what few days during the month she ovulates, if she has already ovulated before taking EC, and/or if the egg has already been fertilized.

What happens when an egg is fertilized?
During fertilization the sperm and egg unite to create a one-celled, distinct, individual human life called a zygote. The zygote receives 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 from the father, therefore receiving its own set of 46 chromosomes. These chromosomes are separate from those of the mother and father and determine the unique genetic make-up of the baby. Yes, that means the baby’s gender, eye color, hair color, blood type, and so on are determined at this point--fertilization. This rapidly developing cluster of human cells float within the uterus for a couple days before it implants.iii

What is implantation and why is it so important?
Implantation is when the zygote reaches the uterine wall and burrows into it for nourishment and nutrition. Implantation is crucial, because without it, the newly formed life will not be able to continue to mature and grow.

Why is emergency contraception controversial?
EC is controversial not because it may inhibit ovulation or fertilization but because it may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall. If the fertilized egg cannot implant, then this distinct human life is then unable to receive the nourishment it needs for survival. In this circumstance, the morning after pill is considered an abortifacient – or abortion-causing.

What is the difference between having a miscarriage and using EC?
A miscarriage is when a woman’s body rejects a fertilized egg, typically for an unknown reason. When a woman miscarriesiv, she is not intentionally trying to prevent implantation, but instead, implantation is prevented due to natural causes. Therefore, a woman is in no way morally responsible for the loss of this human life.

EC, on the other hand, is when a woman intentionally prevents implantation through placing an artificial substance into her body. In this scenario a woman is directly responsible for ending a new life.

Why do those who promote EC claim it does not cause abortions?
Those who promote EC claim it does not cause abortions because they only consider the ending of a pregnancy an abortion after the baby has implanted on the uterine wall. So, if one defines “pregnancy” as the implantation of a zygote then EC does in fact “prevent” pregnancy.

However, it is medically proven that this new life begins growing and developing before it is implanted. The zygote starts as a one-celled human being, but rapidly begins to multiply into one hundred and fifty cells before implantation. This entire process begins immediately when the egg meets the sperm and does not wait until implantation.

If fertilization has occurred inside your body, you right now are carrying a human being with its own DNA distinct from your own and from his or her father’s. If you value human life, you will not want to prevent this individual from being able to get the nutrients he needs for survival. Just like we all need nourishment for survival, so does this new life. And the way in which he or she will survive is if he is able to implant on your uterine wall. If you take EC after fertilization, you are making it virtually impossible for this new life to survive.

And it is true, that if you take this drug, you could be preventing fertilization, which is morally permissible, but you will never know if you have succeeded. You may instead be preventing implantation, which is to intentionally end a human life.

This is not a light decision. We would love to sit down and talk more with you about EC, the different kinds of abortions, adoption, or the possibility of parenting. Please call 502.589.9400 to schedule a time to come in and talk to a counselor or email us at AWConCampus@gmail.com.


iPlan B® One-Step website. “What is Plan B® One-Step?” www.planbonestep.com; Accessed October 6, 2009.
iiOn Plan B® One-Step’s website page 4, 12.1, under “Mechanisms of Action” it says that Plan B® One-Step “may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium).”  “Full Product Information.”  
www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf; Accessed on October 6, 2009. 
Further, on “The Emergency Contraception Website,” it states, “It’s also possible that emergency contraceptive pills work after fertilization, making it impossible for the fertilized egg to implant in your uterus.”
http://ec.princeton.edu/questions/ecwork.html; Accessed  November 5, 2009.
Data regarding conception accessed from Mayo Clinic website. “Fetal development: The first trimester.” www.mayoclinic.com/health/prenatal-care/PR00112; Accessed on October 6, 2009.
ivNot all miscarriages are a result of failed implantation. Miscarriages can obviously happen long after implantation.


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