An Open Letter to Gov. Mark Warner, Att. Gen. Jerry Kilgore, and Virginia’s College Presidents on the Morning After Pill
On May 9th the Attorney General’s office wrote a legal opinion that health clinics at Virginia’s state colleges and universities may dispense the morning after pill to college coeds without obtaining informed consent. Les Femmes joins with other groups and individuals to protest this ludicrous decision and obtain protection for the young women of Virginia. Del. Marshall asked that we share this information widely, and write letters to the editors.
Dear Attorney General Kilgore and Governor Warner,
We, the undersigned citizens of Virginia representing thousands of citizens throughout the state, protest the recent opinion of the AG’s (Attorney General’s) office that Virginia’s state colleges and universities may dispense the morning after abortion pill to students without their informed consent. The opinion uses vague and inaccurate language, violates the clear intent of Virginia’s informed consent law, infringes on the rights of parents over underage children, encourages reckless and promiscuous behavior, and endangers the lives and health of young women prescribed the drugs.
The AG’s memo calls it “emergency contraception,” a misnomer since the morning after pill usually fails to prevent conception. It acts by “altering the endometrium, thereby inhibiting implantation,”1 which occurs seven to ten days after pregnancy has begun. A woman is fertile for only a few days around ovulation. Planned Parenthood reports, “The closer a woman is to ovulation at the time of unprotected intercourse, the less likely the method [morning after pill] will succeed.”2 In other words, the pill is most “successful” when pregnancy is impossible. If she’s ovulated, a woman can conceive within fifteen minutes of intercourse, so the normal action of the pill is abortifacient.
In an example of semantic gymnastics the AG absolves schools from the informed consent provisions of Virginia law by declaring, “to be applicable, the pregnancy of the woman must first be established.”3 By this reasoning there is NO requirement for informed consent as long as a pregnancy isn’t confirmed. This doublespeak commonly occurs in the abortion industry, which offers early abortion as “menstrual regulation.” The AG memo smacks of pro-abortion politics by describing conflicting definitions of pregnancy’s beginning (fertilization vs. implantation) and stating, without citing one example of case law, that courts will consider the “most narrow definition” of pregnancy as implantation. This contradicts Virginia Department of Health materials approved for obtaining informed consent, which define fertilization as conception and use it as the reference point for pregnancy.
The fact that the pill can cause an early abortion, in itself demands that women be counseled on the facts. As Virginia code 18.2-76 states, “Before performing any abortion or inducing a miscarriage or terminating a pregnancy…the physician shall obtain the informed written consent of the pregnant woman.” Consumer laws and medical ethics also require it. If tobacco companies are liable for the adverse effects of smoking despite decades of publicity, drug companies and school health services can hardly be immune. The AG policy is a legal time bomb.
Health risks associated with the use of artificial estrogen and progesterone, even in low doses, are widely reported in the medical literature. The morning after pill contains massive doses of the chemicals in monthly oral birth control pills. No studies exist on its long-term effects and few on its short term because the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), in a blatantly political move, declared it a most favored drug and exempted it.4 Common sense says the same risks associated with lower doses of drugs must occur with higher. Some students will take the pill multiple times during an academic year raising their risks even further. How many who were never even pregnant will suffer serious complications including breast cancer and the emotional trauma of abortion? Also, many freshmen are minors. For school health clinics to give them prescription drugs without parental consent raises serious legal issues.
In closing, some of us are parents of students who graduated from or are currently attending state schools. Some are alumni, recent graduates, or current students. We care about the state of higher education in Virginia. Dispensing the morning after pill on campus furthers no educational goals, but puts young coeds at the mercy of predatory males who take advantage of a sexually permissive environment to “sow their wild oats.” For schools to become enablers and panderers of this behavior betrays every student who walks through the door. We demand better.
1 AG memo of May 5,
2003 to Presidents of Virginia’s Public Colleges and Universities,
Re: Distribution of “Emergency Contraception, p. 2.