Obama Campaign Contends HHS Contraception Mandate Won’t Cover Abortifacients

By Fred Lucas | May 1, 2012 | 5:46pm EDT

This frame grab from video shows a box of Plan B morning after pill. In a surprise move with election-year implications, the Obama administration's top health official overruled her own drug regulators and stopped the Plan B morning-after pill from moving onto drugstore shelves next to the condoms. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama reelection campaign asserted that the administration’s contraception mandate does not require the coverage of any abortion-inducing drugs, even though the Food and Drug Administration describes the drug Ella as preventing implantation from happening.

The reelection campaign for President Barack Obama has recently touted the “contraception coverage – guaranteed” in a recent ad.

Last week, CNSNews.com reported that first lady Michelle Obama praised the health care law and the contraception mandate.

The story said “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized the ‘preventive services’ regulation in January and it will take effect for most employers on Aug. 1. The regulation mandates that nearly all health insurance plans in the United States must provide women with sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives (including those that can induce abortion) without any fees or co-pay.”

The first lady’s campaign press secretary Olivia Alair disagreed with the description, calling it “incorrect.”

“The Obama administration’s decision does not cover drugs like RU486 that cause abortion,” Alair told CNSNews.com in an e-mail.

She referred to a White House blog posting by Cecil Munoz, the director of the White House Policy Council that said, “Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy: Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.”

However, according to the FDA labeling information for the emergency contraception drug ella, the drug would terminate an existing embryo created by fertilization. “[E]lla is thought to work for emergency contraception primarily by stopping or delaying the release of an egg from the ovary. It is possible that ella may also work by preventing attachment (implantation) to the uterus.”

Alair did not respond to inquiries on the matter. Also, the White House did not respond to phone and e-mail inquiries from CNSNews.com.

“Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) such as Plan B One-Step and Ella cannot terminate a pregnancy; they prevent pregnancy by keeping the egg from leaving the ovary or stopping the sperm from joining the egg. It is important to understand that the latest science is clear that ECPs do not stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. So if a woman who is not pregnant takes EPCs, she won’t become pregnant, but if a woman is already pregnant and she takes ECPs, it will not terminate her pregnancy,” an HHS spokesman responded by e-mail.

At a hearing of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March, “There also is no abortifacient drug that is part of the FDA-approved contraception [list].”

Responding to a question about the morning-after pill, Sebelius said, “It is a contraceptive drug, not an abortifacient. It is not an abortifacient. It does not interfere with a pregnancy. If the morning after pill were taken and a female were pregnant, the pregnancy is not interrupted. That’s the definition of an abortifacient.”

There are two morning-after pills, and Ella is the more harmful one, said Dr. Donna J. Harrison, director of research and public policy, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“Plan B, the first emergency contraceptive, probably does not cause an embryo that has already been implanted to be lost. It probably does not kill the implanted embryo,” Harrison told CNSNews.com. “But, the other morning after pill, which is known as Ella, does. It definitely does. There is no question about it.

“If the embryo is implanted and you take Ella, Ella interferes with the place where the embryo is implanted. It kills the placenta and it will kill the developing embryo,” Harrison continued. “Maybe not 100 percent of the time, but probably about 80 percent of the time. It depends on how big the woman is because it depends on the dosage that she takes. But Ella can cause the death of an embryo that has already implanted. Ella can cause an abortion.”

Ella is the product name for the official medicine Ulipristal.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has disputed the White House assertion that the mandate doesn’t cover abortion-inducing drugs in a Feb. 3 statement.

“False. The policy already requires coverage of Ulipristal (HRP 2000 or “Ella”), a drug that is a close analogue to RU-486 (mifepristone) and has the same effects. RU-486 itself is also being tested for possible use as an “emergency contraceptive” – and if the FDA approves it for that purpose, it will automatically be mandated as well,” the statement said.

According to the FDA, “Use of ella is contraindicated during an existing or suspected pregnancy.”

“There are no adequate and well controlled studies in pregnant women,” the FDA says. “Ulipristal acetate was administered repeatedly to pregnant rats and rabbits during the period of organogenesis. Embryofetal loss was noted in all pregnant rats and in half of the pregnant rabbits following 12 and 13 days of dosing, at daily drug exposures 1/3 and 1/2 the human exposure, respectively, based on body surface area (mg/m2).

“There were no malformations of the surviving fetuses in these studies. Adverse effects were not observed in the offspring of pregnant rats administered ulipristal acetate during the period of organogenesis through lactation at drug exposures 1/24 the human exposure based on AUC. Administration of ulipristal acetate to pregnant monkeys for four days during the first trimester caused pregnancy termination in 2/5 animals at daily drug exposures 3 times the human exposure based on body surface area,” the FDA added.

Harrison said that termination of the embryo is the function of the drug.

A letter last August from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said, “The drugs that Americans would be forced to subsidize under the new rule include Ella, which was approved by the FDA as an ‘emergency contraceptive’ but can act like the abortion drug RU-486.

“It can abort an established pregnancy weeks after conception. The pro-life majority of Americans – Catholics and others – would be outraged to learn that their premiums must be used for this purpose,” the letter added.

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