COLF Asks the Pharmacists to Inform Their Clients About the Abortive Potential of the Morning After Pill

Tuesday, June 29 2004

Mr. Garth McCutcheon
Canadian Pharmacists Association
1785 Alta Vista Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1G 3Y6

Dear Mr. McCutcheon:

We were concerned to learn of your association’s strong support for making levonorgestrel, more commonly known as the “morning after pill” or “emergency contraception”, available without prescription.

While we appreciate and value the important role that pharmacists play in informing Canadians about a variety of delicate health problems in a timely way, we have two major concerns about this pill. The first is that its abortive potential has been glossed over in the media and your press release. The second relates to the apparent lack of a monitoring system for frequent use.

Your press release of March 13, 2004 refers to the potential of the pill to “reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and the number of abortions performed”. By contrast, the information from Heath Canada indicates that the pill either inhibits conception by preventing ovulation or inhibits implantation if conception has already taken place. According to a statement from The Therapeutic Products Directorate, dated June 16, 2003, “Hormonal emergency contraceptives act primarily by inhibiting ovulation, and/or altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization), and/or altering the endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation).”

Genetic science demonstrates clearly that human life begins at conception not implantation. Our information is that it is not possible to discern in a particular case whether the pill prevents conception or implantation. Women who accept that life begins at conception would refuse to take this pill if informed of its abortive potential. One can only imagine the impact if they learned of the pill’s abortive potential after the fact. We would appreciate assurances from your association that should Health Canada make this pill available without a prescription across Canada that your members will inform women of its potential to act as an abortifacient.

A second concern that we have arises from information provided by the Therapeutic Health Products Directorate statement last June. It was stated “There is unlikely to be an increased risk of heart attack and stroke (associated with progestin use) with the short duration use of levonorgestrol for emergency contraception.” Assuming that you will caution your clients against regular or long term use, what safeguards will your association put in place to guard against frequent use particularly by adolescents who can easily go from pharmacy to pharmacy?

Finally, we would appreciate knowing your Association’s position on respecting the freedom of conscience and religion of pharmacists who do not wish to distribute this pill.

We look forward to hearing your response to our concerns. We know that we can count on your professionalism and hope that these reflections will assist you in understanding our perspective on the morning after pill. You may be interested to know that we have two health care workers on our Board of Directors as well as two bioethicists.


†Most Rev. Pierre Morissette
Bishop of Baie Comeau
Chairperson of COLF

Related Links: