Contraceptive or abortion pill?

The Sarasota Herald Tribune July 15, 1999
Contraceptive or abortion pill?
- by Mildred L. Shumard, R.N.

It is fascinating to watch the (orchestrated?) campaign against Wal-Mart for refusing to stock or sell a product called Preven. A recent column by Molly Ivins and a letter (July 8) by the local president of the National Organization of Women both refer to Preven as an "emergency contraceptive" and claim that it is "not an abortion pill" but rather "prevents the implantation of the fertilized egg."

Being rather skeptical, I consulted my dictionary. Contraception, as a noun, means "a contraceptive agent or device" and as an adjective, "capable of preventing conception." Contraception is also defined as "prevention of contraception." Conception occurs when sperm fertilizes an ovum, forming a zygote. The blastula stage of the embryo that implants in the wall of the uterus takes about 72 hours following conception to develop from a zygote. So how can Preven be a contraceptive? Or is this another subversion of the language? "Emergency contraceptive" is surely more acceptable than "abortion pill," just as "termination of pregnancy" was more acceptable than "aborting an unborn child."

Human embryology teaches that each human life begins at conception. It also defines, describes and labels the stages of development from zygote to birth. Specifically, for about the first three months of pregnancy, from the zygote to the fetus, the developing human is called an embryo. By preventing implantation, Preven causes "a fatally premature expulsion of an embryo...from the womb" - one of my dictionary's definitions for abortion. Accordingly, Preven is an abortifacient, an "abortion pill." And that is undoubtedly the determination that Wal-Mart has made.

Mildred L. Shumard, R.N. Sarasota

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