Contrary to a Daily Beast report posted Friday, the Food and Drug Administration did not change its description of how the morning-after pill and copper IUD work in its current birth control guide. The confusion stemmed from the fact that two different versions of the same guide—which is designed to inform consumers on how all the various methods of birth control work—were available online.
In one version of the guide, the FDA said the morning-after pill and the copper IUD can prohibit an egg from implanting in the uterus after fertilization. This is significant because a number of religious groups, pro-life activists, and politicians view contraceptives that prevent implantation as the equivalent of an abortion. The FDA says this version of the guide is current, and was created in 2011.
In another version of the same guide, the agency did not discuss implantation in regards to these two birth-control options. The FDA says this version of the guide was from 2010—and has been removed from the Internet as of this afternoon. Both versions of the guide were in PDF form online.
The FDA website contained information that differed from both versions of the PDF guide. An FDA spokeswoman said the FDA has updated the web page as of this afternoon, directing consumers to the current PDF. She said the FDA would make the language on the site and in the current guide uniform.
The morning-after pill has been in the news this month following a New York Times report that questioned whether the pill does in fact prohibit implantation. “It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work,” the Times reported. “Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb,” the article said, citing leading scientists. “Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.”
When asked if the FDA is reviewing its stance on the the morning-after pill in light of the Times report, the spokeswoman said, “Labeling of a drug may change as more becomes known about a drug after it is approved, usually at the request of a company to reflect new information from clinical trials or other scientific sources.”
She added that the FDA is currently working on a 2012 version of the birth-control guide.