Posted by Maressa Brown
December 13, 2010 at 12:55 PM
Ella is causing quite the controversy. No, she’s not a Victoria’s Secret model or co-starring opposite Johnny Depp in an upcoming blockbuster. Actually, it is a new birth control pill that can prevent pregnancy after an “oops!” moment, and it just became available by prescription. Like Plan B—which is most effective the “morning after” but far less effectual 72 hours later—Ella is emergency contraception.
But, unlike Plan B, Ella can cut the chances of becoming pregnant by about two-thirds for at least 120 hours after a condom fail or unprotected sex, studies have shown. That’s two days longer than Plan B.
Regardless of whether or not the drug fills a void in the contraception market, there are plenty of pro-life, hyper-reactionary opponents who want to see it done away with because they argue that Ella’s the same thing as an abortion. The thing is, it’s not.
How it works: Ella hinders progesterone and postpones the surge of hormones that tell the body it’s time to release a mature egg. With progesterone’s activity held at bay, the womb cannot be prepared to accept a fertilized egg and to care for a developing embryo.
The brouhaha: Ella is like a chemical cousin to the abortion pill RU-486, or mifepristone, which also blocks progesterone in an effort to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting; it also dislodges growing embryos. But evidence shows that Ella does not terminate already existing pregnancies.