New birth control pill re-ignites debate

June 11, 2010 at 7:59 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 11 (UPI) -- American women may soon have another birth control option in a controversial pill from France that works long after the so-called morning after, observers say.

HRA Pharma of Paris is hoping for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the drug, called ella, as a contraceptive that could prevent pregnancy for as many as five days after unprotected sex, The Washington Post reported Friday.

But as a close chemical relative of the abortion pill RU-486, the new drug is restarting debates about the difficult distinction between preventing and ending a pregnancy, the newspaper said.

The available "morning after" pill works for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. Ella promises to increase that time frame to at last 120 hours, HRA Pharma says.

Critics say marketing the drug as a contraceptive is misleading because of its similarity to RU-486, which can terminate a pregnancy at up to nine weeks.

"With (ella) women will be enticed to buy a poorly tested abortion drug, unaware of its medical risks, under the guise that it's a morning-after pill," said Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, which led the battle against the morning after pill.

Some opponents fear women who do not realize they are already pregnant might use the drug and unknowingly give themselves an abortion, the Post reported.

Proponents discount those concerns, saying ella has been tested only within five days of unprotected sex with no evidence its effects are as anything other than a contraceptive.

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