Facts Don’t Matter to Media Matters: Ella Drug Causes Abortions

Opinion   |   Anna Franzonello   |   Aug 3, 2011   |   10:45AM   |   Washington, DC

In its attempt to “debunk” the claim that an abortion drug is included in the “preventive services” mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Media Matters ignores a glaring factella – a drug that is chemically similar to the FDA-approved abortion drug RU-486 – is included in the mandate.

Unlike Plan B, which is a progestin-based drug, ella is – just like RU-486 – a selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM).  This means that though indicated as “contraception,” ella works the same way as RU-486, not Plan B.[1] By blocking progesterone, a hormone necessary to build and maintain the uterine wall, ella and RU-486 can kill an already-implanted human embryo.

Put another way – ella can abort a pregnancy, no matter whose definition of “pregnancy” is used.

When the FDA approved ella, it did not make any assurance that it would not disrupt a pregnancy.  In fact, the FDA said that ella may “affect” implantation.[2] The FDA chose different language when it approved Plan B, saying it may “prevent” implantation but explicitly stating that once an embryo implanted, Plan B would not terminate the pregnancy.[3]

Moreover, scientific studies demonstrate that ella not only prevents implantation, but can harm an “established” pregnancy.  The FDA’s prescribing instructions for ella cite animal studies demonstrating high embryo-fetal loss.[4] In addition, the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), the EU equivalent of the FDA, indicated that ella “is embryotoxic at low doses, when given to rats and rabbits.”[5]

Planned Parenthood, proud of the role it played in ella’s development,[6] provides significant misinformation about the drug.  Planned Parenthood’s background paper on ella cites a 1998 study for the proposition that “[e]mergency contraception prevents ovulation.  It has no impact on pregnancies that are already underway.”[7] However, to make this point, the study examined progestin-based drugs.  In fact, the study also acknowledges that RU-486, and similar drugs, could be used as “emergency contraception.”  There is no debate that RU-486 also causes abortions in “pregnancies that are already underway.”

Such confusion of ella with Plan B – drugs that work in consequentially different ways – is prevalent throughout Planned Parenthood materials.  Major media outlets, and now Media Matters, also appear to be sweeping the facts about ella under the rug by focusing only on Plan B when discussing so-called “emergency contraception.”

Yet, even the discussion of Plan B tends to relay only half the story.

Media Matters neglects to mention that Plan B can work by preventing the implantation of a human embryo.  This life-ending mechanism of action – required by the FDA to be included in the drug labeling for both ella[8] and Plan B[9] – is a legitimate and serious concern for many pro-life Americans.

Media Matters, so focused on spin, has ignored significant facts.  Though the HHS mandate does not include RU-486, it does include the abortion-inducing drug ella.  Though labeled as “emergency contraception,” ella is undeniably a progesterone blocker, just like RU-486.  As the saying goes – a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Or, in the present case, abortion drugs by any other name are as objectionable to the consciences of pro-life Americans.

LifeNews.com Note: Anna Franzonello is a staff attorney for Americans United for Life, a national pro-life organization. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame School of Law.

[1] The mechanism of action of ulipristal in human ovarian and endometrial tissue is identical to that of its parent compound mifepristone.”  Harrison & Mitroka, Defining Reality: The Potential Role of Pharmacists in Assessing the Impact of Progesterone Receptor Modulators and Misoprostol in Reproductive Health, 45 Annals Pharmacotherapy 115 (Jan. 2011).

[2] ella Labeling Information (Aug. 13, 2010), available at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022474s000lbl.pdf (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[3] Plan B Approved Labeling, available at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2006/021045s011_Plan_B_PRNTLBL.pdf (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[4] See ella Labeling Information supra note 2.

[5] European Medicines Agency, Evaluation of Medicines for Human Use: CHMP Assessment Report for Ellaone 16 (2009), available at https://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/EPAR_-_Public_assessment_report/human/001027/WC500023673.pdf (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[6] See Planned Parenthood Fed’n of Am., Planned Parenthood Applauds Launch of a New Emergency Contraception in the U.S. (Dec. 1, 2010), available at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/planned-parenthood-applauds-launch-new-emergency-contraception-us-35386.htm (last visited Aug. 1, 2011).

[7] Planned Parenthood Fed’n of Am., Inc., Background on Ulipristal Acetate (Ella) (2010).

[8] See ella Labeling Information supra note 2.

[9] See Plan B Labeling Information supra note 3.