by Steven Ertelt
August 15, 2006
New York, NY (LifeNews.com) — Doctors working in religiously affiliated hospitals are less likely to prescribe the morning after pill for women than those in secular medical institutions. That’s the conclusion of a new study sponsored by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
The study also found that even doctors with no religious affiliation were not prescribing the morning after pill as often as the study’s authors expected.
Dr. Linda Prine of Albert Einstein, the lead author of the study, said doctors should always prescribe the Plan B drug when asked.
"Really the right answer is ‘yes,’ whenever the woman asks for it," she told Reuters. "It wasn’t anywhere near that."
"To us the real take-home message is, this medication needs to be over the counter, because physicians are not doing a good job of getting it out there," she said.
Prine’s study included a survey of faculty, residents, and nurse practitioners working in six different residency programs, three of them affiliated with the Catholic Church.
Respondents were asked how they would react in nine different circumstances involving pregnancy and the Plan B drug. Some of the situations involved women who were not pregnant and not using contraception, whether they would prescribe the drug over the phone or whether they would refill an existing prescription.
According to Reuters, the survey found that medical staff in non-religious hospitals would prescribe the morning after pill in greater numbers than their Catholic colleagues in seven of nine situations.
The study found that 10.4 percent of those people in a religious hospital would prescribe the drug all or some of the time while 41.7 percent in a non-religious hospital would do so.
"This survey demonstrates that religious affiliation clearly creates a deterrent to prescribing emergency contraception," Prine explained, according to Reuters.
The Food and Drug Administration reached a deal with Barr Laboratories last week to allow the drug’s maker to sell the pills over the counter without a prescription. When the deal is finalized, women over 18 will be allowed to purchase the drug but teenagers under 18 will still need a doctor’s visit.
However, doctors may not be prescribing the morning after pill because it hasn’t proven effective in reducing abortions or pregnancies.
Scotland made the morning after pill available over the counter in 1999, but, officials there recently announced that the number of abortions there has reached an all-time high.
Deirdre McQuade, pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, points to a study showing that the morning after pill does not reduce pregnancy rates.
“As surprising as it may seem to proponents of Plan B, a 2005 study co-authored by a Planned Parenthood doctor in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that having Plan B on hand did nothing to reduce pregnancy rates compared to those who obtained the drug from a pharmacy,” McQuade noted.
Prine and her colleagues published their morning after pill study in the American Journal of Public Health.