Lawmaker Wants Ban on Emergency Contraception on UW Campuses

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: It all started with a University Health Services ad in the Badger Herald telling students not to forget their emergency contraceptives when they left for spring break.

"I thought that was inappropriate," says Rep. Daniel LeMahieu (R-Oostburg). "I thought that was stepping over the line. I thought it was promoting irresponsible behavior."

Rep. LeMahieu says that ad prompted him to draft a bill that would ban emergency contraception on all UW campuses. "What the intent of the bill is–is to stop the promotion and distribution of the morning after pill."

Emergency contraceptives like the popular Plan B are simply a concentrated form of birth control, and critics say you can't ban Plan B without banning all birth control.

But Rep. LeMehieu wants to be clear that's not his intent. "This bill narrowly deals with the morning after pill, not birth control pills in general."

Emergency contraceptives work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall.

"I believe that when you have a fertilized egg and you physically prevent it from implanting in the uterus, I believe that is an abortion," says Rep. LeMaheiu.

"That's frankly just scientifically inaccurate," says Dr. Scott Spear, Director of Clinical Services at University Health Services. "An abortion is termination of an existing pregnancy–after the egg implants in the uterine lining is when a pregnancy starts to exist. Emergency contraception doesn't work at that point."

Despite the scientific argument over when life begins, the bill may be moot before it even gets out of committee. Dr. Spear says Plan B could be available at your local drugstore by this spring.

"The FDA advisory panel recommended by a vote of 23–4 that it was safe and effective enough to be used over the counter," says Dr. Spear.

Dr. Spear says no tax dollars are used in the women's clinic-it's paid for with student fees. Rep. LeMahieu says that's splitting hairs-the building is still paid for with taxpayer dollars.

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