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[Opinion] Morning After Contraception

Posted August. 28, 2006 07:26,   


Contraceptives have been cited as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century along with the Internet. With contraceptives first developed in 1960, women got to “choose” their pregnancies, shedding the heavy burdens of childbirth and child rearing. Women started to actively participate in economic activities. Therefore, in the history of women’s empowerment, the development of contraceptives is regarded as more important than the winning of suffrage.

However, contraceptives were not welcomed from the beginning. Faced with opposition from Christian denominations, the state of Connecticut in the U.S. did not sell contraceptives even to married couples. Taking contraceptives did not prevent unwanted pregnancies 100 percent, either. Medication was of no use when women already got pregnant after having sex unprepared. But as the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of Invention.” In 1999, morning after pills that are said to reduce the odds of getting pregnant by 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex came out. The pills were named “plan B,” which seems to be quite a matching name.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed plan B to be sold at pharmacies to men and women aged 18 and over without prescriptions, putting an end to controversies that have gone on for three years. Whether to allow plan B to be sold over the counter has been a conundrum in the U.S., because the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, women’s groups, and religious groups have sounded different opinions from each other on the issue. This time also, the differences of opinions were evident. Senator Hillary Clinton immediately voiced her endorsement for the FDA’s decision in a statement. But religious groups warned U.S. President George W. Bush, “You will pay politically for this some day.”

Advocates of the decision expect that it will prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions that are estimated at 1.5 million and 800,000 respectively in the U.S. alone a year and help resolve the issue of teenage unmarried mothers. However, objectors argue that taking it is tantamount to an abortion medically and that it will only tempt adolescents into promiscuity, aggravating the problems of STDs and unintended pregnancies.

Currently, the morning after pill is sold without prescriptions in 41 countries around the world, but prescriptions are required in Korea to get hold of the pill. What impact will the decision by the U.S. FDA have on Korea? I am curious about what “plan B” the Korea Food and Drug Administration will draw up.

Chung Sung-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com