A pro-life perspective on ELLA

>> Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hello friends, family, and random internet readers!

As promised in a previous post, I am back to post with some information and thoughts on the “ELLA” drug recently approved by the FDA. In my previous post I shared a video clip in which Randy Alcorn and Mark Driscoll discuss the dangers common contraceptives pose from a pro-life perspective, which I am sure includes the ELLA drug. I have similar concerns about ELLA.

So first, what is ELLA?

According to the Wall Street Journal, ELLA is “a new drug that is supposed to block pregnancy up to five days after sex, two days longer than the currently available emergency contraceptive Plan B.In the words of the FDA, “ella is a progesterone agonist/antagonist whose likely main effect is to inhibit or delay ovulation. Since May 2009, the prescription product has been available in Europe under the brand name ellaOne.” According to the pro-life organization Americans United for Life (AUL), “Ella is being marketed as an “emergency contraceptive,” but it is the “next generation” of the abortion drug, RU-486.”

The possible dangers and ethical questions raised by ELLA are not as clear as most people would prefer. Still, from a pro-life perspective, I believe a solid answer can be reached.

What are the dangers of ELLA?

First, does ELLA interfere with or kill a developing embryo? That depends on when you believe life to begin. Basically, forgoing the technical and scientific terms that I find it difficult to keep straight sometimes…ELLA’s primary function/purpose is to inhibit or interfere with ovulation. But, if it is unable to do that, its next function is to keep that fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. Turning again to AUL for input, “Ella, like RU-486, is a selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM). As a progesterone blocker, an SPRM works to interfere with the developing human embryo, causing it to die by either interfering with the uterine lining and preventing implantation, or by starving an implanted embryo.” AUL further states in a letter to Margaret Hamburg (Commissioner, US Food and Drug Administration) urging that ELLA not be approvedUlipristal Acetate and the abortion drug Mifepristone (RU-486) are both selective progesterone receptor modulators (SPRM). SPRMs block progesterone, which is necessary to maintain pregnancyithus starving an unborn baby of the nutrients it needs to continue life.

Given ella’s similar chemical makeup to RU-486, women deserve to see evidence demonstrating that ella will not destroy or harm an unborn child and that ella’s modes of action do not include abortion, especially in light of studies that show ella causes abortions in animal studies. FDA materials admit that data is “too limited to draw any definitive conclusions regarding the effect of ulipristal on an established pregnancy or fetal development.

So the answer to the question of whether ELLA interferes with or kills a life (and thus constitutes an abortion) depends on when you define life to begin and whether ELLA is successful in its primary function of preventing ovulation. If you believe life begins at the moment an egg is fertilized, then yes, ELLA absolutely interferes with and/or kills a human life when it fails in its primary purpose (which it must be assumed will happen with fair regularity due to lack of precision in administration). According to studies, only 2% of women taking ELLA up to 120 hours after intercourse become pregnant. 2% sounds small but when thousands upon thousands of women take ELLA 2% quickly becomes a large number. But, if you believe life begins at the moment of implantation or when the egg is attached to the uterus, then it is not clear to what extent ELLA interferes with the embryo. I say “not clear” deliberately because that leads to my next concern with ELLA.

Is ELLA safe and thoroughly studied enough?

As with virtually all prescription pills or drugs, there are possible side effects of ELLA. Not new news. But, there are concerns that ELLA has not been sufficiently studied to determine its effects on women and embryos it does not prevent from being fertilized and implanted. On this count, AUL has this to say: “While the FDA made specific assurances that Plan B would not affect an embryo after implantation, it contraindicates ella for “known or suspected” pregnancy. The FDA admits, “There are no adequate and well controlled studies in pregnant women.” It cites studies in animals with high rates of pregnancy loss, and it acknowledges that the effects on a fetus that survives ella are unknown.

Exactly what weight these concerns about safety hold, I just can’t say with authority, due to my lack of familiarity with the process of approving prescription pills. Neither a human life or the health of a mother are worth the chance of an insufficiently researched product; so I believe it behooves the FDA to further examine the affect ELLA would have both on the health of the mother and the child, in the event that ELLA does not keep an egg from implanting or is taken too late.

In summary: the bottom line from a consistently pro-life perspective is that ELLA is sure to interfere with and end many human lives in their earliest stage of life. For this reason alone I believe ELLA should not be used by pro-life individuals but the unanswered questions concerning the safety of ELLA are also a significant concern.

There is no good reason for not examining more thoroughly safety questions, especially when a fetus could be harmed for life. The FDA’s failure to do so raises questions about the impact of political and industrial involvement in the approval process. The answer to those questions is of secondary importance though as the FDA cannot make individuals use ELLA.

The choice is the individuals. How will they decide and what will the pro-life community do to stand up for the unborn and protect the sanctity of life?

God bless and veritas supra omnis!

Related Articles:

AUL's "Letter to the Commissioner" http://ellacausesabortions.com/ellapetition/Media_Center_files/Ella%20Group%20Letter.pdf

"Is Ella Birth Control or Abortion?" on Slate.com

WaPo "FDA approves ella as 5-day-after emergency contraceptive"


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