Pro-life officials are concerned over a public health department campaign to promote the so-called morning after pill among Toronto area young people.

Public health officials launched the morning after pill educational campaign in early February. The campaign uses mail-outs, public transit advertising and promotion by youth workers and educators in an effort to increase awareness of Emergency Contraception Prevention (ECP).

One of the public transit ads claims to offer “the truth about the morning after pill.”

Toronto medical officer of health Dr. David McKeown was quoted in news reports as saying the campaign will help reduce the number of teen pregnancies. He said it is time to end the silence around “this safe, effective method of emergency contraception.”

Pro-life officials however, reject claims that a campaign to increase awareness of the morning after pill will reduce the number of teen pregnancies. In fact, such a campaign could lead some teens to increased sexual activity.

Pill’s real effect

In an article prepared for The Interim (see page 5), Toronto Right to Life president June Scandiffio said there are a number of concerns about the morning after pill. Chief among them is the description of the pill as a contraceptive when it can be more accurately described as a form of chemical abortion. The pills, which are taken 12-72 hours after intercourse, alter the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.

Scandiffio also pointed out that previous studies indicate that the campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of morning after pills have not resulted in reduced pregnancy rates among teenagers.

She said the longer-term health risks of morning after pill use are still being debated, and she cautioned against the use of chemicals to solve what are primarily social problems.

Meanwhile Dr. John Shea (see article page 22), said the morning after pill campaign is based on misinformation, primarily around efforts to promote the product as a contraceptive rather than as an abortifacient.

“As of 1995, the use of oral contraceptives for Emergency Contraceptive Prevention was ‘off-label’. There were no medications in Canada approved specifically for post-coital contraceptive use,” Dr. Shea said. He concluded that the young women are being misled about the way morning after pills operate and about the hazards associated with these drugs.