Volume 95, Issue 83

Tuesday, March 12, 2002
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VP forum allows for schmooze-fest

Raging storm flattens Forest City

Cabbies endangered: drivers beaten and robbed

Negotiations begin in Dalhousie strike

Sex without consequences anyone?

Hockey and opera worth puck all

Sex without consequences anyone?

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

An application to Health Canada to make the Plan B morning-after pill available without a prescription has raised health and ethical concerns among members of the medical community, as well as special interest groups.

Katia Betito, executive director of scientific affairs at Paladin Labs, the pill's Canadian distributor, said Paladin made the application in order for women to have quick access to the drug. "If a woman has to wait 72 hours to see a physician, [the pill is less effective]," she said.

A national organizer of Campaign Life Coalition, Mary Ellen Douglas said her group would lobby the government to oppose the application. "We're certainly opposed to the Paladin Labs pressuring [of] the government," she said.

"[Plan B is] a pill known to be an abortifacient. It's dangerous for the women involved," she said. "It [also] puts pressure on the pharmacists."

Kim Luton, president of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, disagreed. "It is not an abortifacient," Luton said. "[The pill] intervenes prior to conception."

Betito also said Plan B is not an abortifacient. "If a woman is pregnant, it does not affect her pregnancy," she explained, noting the pill is safer than many other medical forms of birth control.

Health Canada media relations officer Ryan Baker said ethical concerns would not be taken into consideration when Paladin Labs' application is examined.

"We evaluate drugs for safety and efficacy," Baker said. "We would have to be satisfied [there is] scientific evidence that this drug is safe." Baker said there was no way to predict how long it would take for Health Canada to reach a decision.

According to Janet Cooper, senior director of professional affairs for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Plan B is essentially a birth control pill and should not be confused with the abortion pill ru-486. "Women have been taking [these types of] pills since the 1970s," she said.

Cooper said doctors do not need to make a diagnosis because most women know whether the possibility exists for an unwanted pregnancy. "Pharmacists are accessible and well-trained to deal [with side effects]," she said.

"[Making it available without a prescription] will increase access. It will decrease the number of abortions in this country," Cooper added.

Betito said it is important to note that if the application is approved, the pill will only be available from behind the counter and the pharmacist will provide guidance if needed.

Thomas Macfarlane, director of Western's Student Health Services, said morning-after pills are currently made available to women who need it on a same day or next day basis. "We make it as easy as possible. Our policy is still to have women see a physician," he said.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002