Having easy access to morning-after pill might give women false sense of security

So, the morning-after pill doesn’t reduce pregnancy rates, doesn’t change frequency of unprotected sex, and doesn’t change how often people use condoms. This is according to a report conducted by The Cochrane Group, which took 11 separate studies of the morning-after pill, combined the findings, and analyzed them.

The report focused on studies where women were given an advanced set of pills, because some speculated that getting the pill from a prescription or at a pharmacy was inconvenient and delayed the pill from being taken, meaning hours could go by (and eggs could get fertilized) before a woman could get access to the pill. I mean, if you have sex at midnight, you have to wait until a pharmacy or doctor’s office is open to get the pill.

Some background: The morning-after pill is not birth control, but rather a pill that you can take up to 72 hours after having unprotected sex in order to prevent a pregnancy (not terminate one). It works in a few different ways to prevent pregnancy: preventing ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus so the sperm can’t get into the egg, and then thining the wall of the uterus so the egg can’t attach to the uteran wall and start growing.

Anyway, I hate to pick things I like about a report’s finding and things I don’t, but obviously I enjoy that the report finds that women don’t see the morning-after pill as an excuse to be promiscuous. People always say condoms, birth control, and now emergency birth control are weapons that young people especially can use in their battle to have unprotected sex with everyone they see. Unfortunately for skeptics, women don’t abuse the morning-after pill.

What’s odd to me is how people can have a stash of these pills and still pregnancy rates don’t decline — it makes me wonder who the women were in these studies and how they varied by age and marital status. I can’t see the article without paying for it, so I will hopelessly wait for the information. 

The report is more impressive if they targeted a specific age group of women who are especially prone to unplanned pregnancies, say, women aged 18-24, and then compared the statistics from the experimental group to real life statistics. Although more than 7,000 women are part of the studies, the fact that the women were from four different countries and that results came from 11 different studies makes me curious about the specifics.

I would speculate (as the report originally hypothesized) that pregnancies would decline simply because having to ask for the morning-after pill is especially stigmatized. Not only do you have to go to your doctor or the pharmacist and admit that you are sexually active — which could prompt immediate judgment from the doctor or pharmacist, depending on your age and their personal views — but you are also admitting that you made a mistake while having sex.

The condom broke, you forgot to take your birth control, you just didn’t use anything — combine the shame that society wants women to feel for having sex outside of marriage with the shame that comes along with making an additional mistake during sex, and you have a remedy for women who are too frightened to get the pill or agonize over getting it just long enough for a sperm to fertilize their egg.

I’d think having a ready supply would be a no-brainer, but as many have pointed out, the pill won’t work if you don’t take it, much like a condom won’t work if you don’t wear it. I wonder if just knowing they had the pills at their disposal gave women a false sense of security, as if the idea of an unplanned pregnancy seemed less urgent because they knew they were prepared — but forgot that ingesting the pill is what makes it effective, not having it in your medicine cabinet.

This reminds me of other instances where you might equip yourself to be protected, but the equipment along needs to be used to fulfill its duty — e.g. you install a security system in your house but forget to set it when you leave the house. Perhaps the study is accurate, and people too often fall for the illusion that having protection is being protected — you have to actually use the equipment to see the results you want.

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