Canada Makes Morning After Pill Available Over the Counter

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 21, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 21
, 2005

Ottawa, Canada ( — It’s official. Canada has now made the sometimes abortion drug Plan B available over the counter without a prescription. The decision will likely place pressure on the United States to follow suit, and the Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal to make it available to women over 16 years of age.

Canadian officials with Health Canada signed the order to make the so-called morning after pill available at pharmacies across the country. The drugs will be kept behind the pharmacy counter rather than on the shelves.

A new study on the usage of the drug among Canadian women, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, claims demand for the drug more than doubled in British Columbia, when it allowed over the counter sales tow years ago.

"Timely access to emergency contraception has the potential to reduce unwanted pregnancies and subsequent abortions," the study said.

Pro-life groups oppose the use of the drug and point to a recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, that found increased access to the "morning after" pill did not lower pregnancy rates because many women did not use the pills.

Wendy Wright, of Concerned Women for America, said the study showed "easy access to the drug increases sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates," a situation she called "alarming."

"Furthermore, studies show that the abortion rate is unaffected, and in some cases has increased," she explained.

Cathy Cleaver Ruse, speaking for the nation’s Catholic bishops, said that the study, co-authored by a Planned Parenthood doctor, "blows the lid off the main argument for putting morning after pills on the drugstore shelf."

"Proponents have repeatedly claimed that making the drug available without a prescription would reduce abortion numbers by as many as half; now their own study debunks that claim," Ruse said.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada hailed the change.

Three provinces — British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec — didn’t wait for the national government to make the change and went ahead on their own and allowed the drug to be sold without a doctor’s visit.

In January, the FDA delayed its decision on whether to allow sales of the so-called morning after pill over the counter in the United States. FDA officials said they needed more time to review the drug.

Six U.S. states, including Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico and Washington, allow the morning after pill to be purchased without a prescription.

In Canada, Plan B is made by Duramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cincinnati and distributed in this country by pharmaceutical company Paladin. Barr Laboratories makes the drug in the United States.

The abortion drug RU 486, which has been responsible for the deaths of women across the world, is not legal in Canada.

There were 105,154 abortions performed in Canada in 2002, according to Statistics Canada.

Some 15.4 of every 1,000 Canadian women 14 to 44 years old had an abortion in 2002, a rate which has been steady since the Canadian Supreme Court ruled abortions could be allowed in 1988.