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Abortion clinic mistaken about morning-after pill

I write in response to Monnica Williams's letter ["Literature not focused on rape," Oct. 6]. My concern focuses on the final paragraph of the letter "clarifying" the differences between the morning-after pill and RU-486 in which the author of the letter concludes "Morning-after medication is contraception; RU-486 is abortion." This is simply a misrepresentation of the facts.

The word "contraception" is a shortening of contra-ception. Properly speaking, contraceptives are therefore agents which act to prevent conception. The morning-after pill consists of a high dose of synthetic estrogen, a female hormone which inhibits progesterone production. (Progesterone induces the thickening of the wall of the uterus.) This results in the prevention of the implantation of a fertilized ovum (not the prevention of fertilization of the ovum) allowing it to pass out of the uterus and out of existence. Hence labeling the morning-after medication as contraception is, literally speaking, incorrect. Perhaps the term contra-gestation is more accurate.

RU-486 on the other hand is a drug which inhibits the action of progesterone by binding to sites normally occupied by progesterone. Simply put, RU-486 prevents further thickening of the uterus wall and in so doing leads to the eventual expulsion of the lining of the womb. Here again, the appropriate term is contra-gestation. A detailed discussion of the facts appears in the Sept. 22 edition of Science.

Morning-after medication and RU-486 are not the same drug. The difference, however, is not that one is "contraceptive" while the other is not, but rather that one is designed to block the development of a fertilized ovum before it is firmly implanted in the wall of the uterus while the other is designed to block the further development of an already implanted fertilized ovum. Needless to say, these observations have enormous ramifications for any group wishing to define life as beginning with conception and further endorsing morning-after medication (or for that matter birth control medication and the IUD). You can't have it both ways.

Patrick McDonald G->