The Food and Drug Administration is under fire from pro-life groups over a new drug under consideration that opponents say may induce early abortions.
Ulipristal, with the proposed trade name of Ella, is described by the FDA as an "emergency contraceptive" that can prevent pregnancy up to 120 hours after intercourse. The FDA advisory panel considering Ella voted Thursday against recommending any precautions or labels that would inform women that the drug could cause an abortion as well as health risks.
"Millions of American women, even those willing to use a contraceptive to prevent fertilization in various circumstances, would personally never choose to have an abortion," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a June 17 letter to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA.
He added, "They would be ill served by a misleading campaign to present Ulipristal simply as a 'contraceptive.'"
DiNardo as well as other pro-life leaders voiced concern that Ella has a similar effect to the controversial drug RU-486, the one legal abortion drug in the United States, but is being described as an emergency contraceptive, which is believed to have no post-implantation effects.
Ella, they argue, can be used to end pregnancy up to five days after intercourse. Meanwhile, the currently legal morning-after pill, also known as Plan B, prevents pregnancy up to 72 hours.
The FDA said in a statement that Ella can be used after unprotected intercourse or following a known or suspected contraceptive failure. It "is not intended for routine use as a contraceptive," the FDA stated.
Family Research Council has called on the FDA to include a warning for the pill that would inform women of the health risks involved.
"Women deserve to know that this drug can take a life that has already been implanted as well as the serious health risks it imposes, including infection and bleeding," said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. "Women's health should not be jeopardized just to advance the agenda of the abortion industry."
Studies have suggested Ella is safe and effective, but reports have also indicated that side effects include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and menstrual-like pain.