During the second day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked the Supreme Court nominee about threats to religious liberty. Cruz correctly pointed out that certain kinds of birth control pills induce abortion and criticized the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) attempt to fine religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor “in order to force them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, among others.”
Planned Parenthood responded to Sen. Cruz’s remarks with a tweet contradicting Cruz and asserting that birth control cannot cause an abortion.
Despite mainstream media outlets framing the situation as Planned Parenthood “correcting” Sen. Cruz, it is actually Planned Parenthood who is in the wrong. Cruz referred to abortion-inducing drugs, “among others.” Of course, not all forms of birth control cause abortions. However, some do, including the notorious “morning-after pill” Plan B and a newer, lesser-known FDA-approved drug called Ella (also known as ulipristal acetate or Ella-One).
The FDA misleadingly labels Ella a more effective “Emergency Contraception.” Like Plan B, Ella can cause an abortion by preventing a fertilized egg (embryo) from implanting in the uterus. But unlike Plan B, Ella can also terminate a pregnancy after the embryo has already implanted. It does this by starving the embryo of a chemical known as progesterone, which the embryo needs in order to continue developing inside the uterus. By inhibiting progesterone, Ella functions similarly to the “abortion pill” mifepristone (also known as Mifeprex or RU-486), which is used to end the lives of babies in the first trimester. Like mifepristone, Ella can induce abortions both pre- and post-implantation.
Numerous studies reported by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) show that Ella causes abortions in animals, including macaques, close relatives to monkeys. Researchers have also concluded that just a 30-milligram dose of Ella will abort human babies.
Ella’s proponents claim that the drug will not interfere with pregnancy because it is only approved for use within five days of sexual intercourse, and implantation usually occurs six to 10 days after fertilization. Although Ella’s online provider, Project Ruby, requires a prescription, it does not require an in-person examination from a doctor prior to purchase. Planned Parenthood itself attempts to create confusion by calling Ella a type of “morning-after pill” when, in reality, the pill can be taken for several days after having intercourse.
Planned Parenthood should get its fact straight before criticizing Sen. Cruz’s valid concerns about abortifacient drugs and the federal government’s attempts to force religious groups to pay for them. By propagating the lie that birth control is always contraceptive and never abortifacient, Planned Parenthood continues to mislead countless women about their options before and after becoming pregnant. Women have the right to know what drugs can do to their own bodies and those of their unborn children.
Planned Parenthood is also failing to treat a complex discussion about health care and religious liberty with appropriate nuance. Fortunately, the court case involving the ACA and the Little Sisters of the Poor was decided in support of the Little Sisters’ right to freedom of conscience. However, many of our nation’s officials, both elected and unelected, would have liked to see the case settled differently. Religious liberty is the most fundamental right enshrined in the First Amendment, but it is under attack from those who would rather see an overbearing federal government force religious organizations, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, to violate their consciences.
Ruth Moreno is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs, with a concentration on pro-life issues.