April 20, 2005
On April 19, Health Canada, the Canadian agency responsible for health policy and regulation, approved Plan B emergency contraception for use without a prescription in Canada. Because emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is taken, eliminating delays caused by the need to obtain and fill prescriptions (particularly over weekends and holidays) can help ensure that women have the method when they need it. Health Canada’s decision will allow Canadian women immediate access to emergency contraception, increasing their chances of preventing unplanned pregnancies.
Emergency contraception, sometimes called the “morning-after pill,” consists of the same hormones found in ordinary birth control pills. When taken in a concentrated dosage within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, these hormones can prevent a pregnancy from occurring. Emergency contraception is not "the abortion pill" (mifepristone or RU-486) and will not affect an established pregnancy.
Despite the potential of Plan B to reduce unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to drag its heels on making a similar decision that would allow American women to purchase emergency contraceptive pills over the counter.
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