By Elise Viebeck - 06/18/12 09:24 PM EDT
Federal health officials are heeding new doubts that emergency contraception actually scuttles pregnancies, according to a report.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allegedly edited its online description of how the "morning-after pill" works — striking the potentially dubious detail that continues to inspire most of the backlash against the administration's birth control coverage mandate.
According to The Daily Beast, the FDA's online guide to birth control methods used to state that emergency contraception might stop a pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from "implanting to the uterus."
This was the prevailing view until experts recently told The New York Times that it has no scientific basis.
"These medications are there to prevent or delay ovulation," said Dr. Petra M. Casey, an OBGYN with the Mayo Clinic. "They don’t act after fertilization.”
The change to FDA's online description of the pill allegedly came after the Times report was published.
The Times report has prompted a wave of calls for medical authorities to change their descriptions of how emergency contraception works.
It also focuses attention on the importance of the issue this year, as legal cases mount against the birth control coverage mandate and the November elections loom.
People who are opposed to abortion rights also tend to oppose the coverage mandate because they see emergency contraception as equivalent to abortion.
Times reporter Pam Belluck, whose piece prompted the debate, called this understanding into question in an interview.
"It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work," she told The Daily Beast.
"Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb … Rather, the pills delay ovulation … and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.”
The FDA's entry on the "morning-after pill" now reads, in part: "These are pills with hormones similar to other oral contraceptives" and "They stop the ovaries from releasing an egg or stops sperm from joining with the egg."