Fail, Survive, or Thrive

November 18, 2022 @ 12:00am

So, there is this amazing group out of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, UW CORE-Collaborative for Reproductive Equity. They conduct some very important research regarding reproductive health, and value reproductive autonomy, dignity, and equity. With that being said, I always look forward to reading their updates and current research.

Their latest update came out on Monday, and I was in such shock and awe, that I have had to spend several days processing. Several of the researchers from CORE published a study on September 28th in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology titled, Physician Beliefs about Contraceptive Methods as Abortifacients. Here is the link for those who are interested

In 2019 the group surveyed 893 practicing physicians, across medical specialties, at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The results are something that I am still pondering and struggling with. 17% of those surveyed believed that IUDs work by causing abortions. Furthermore, 39% believed that emergency contraception worked by causing abortions. And roughly 6% believed implants, injections, pills, patches, or rings cause abortion.

The documented main mechanisms of action for hormonal contraception, include ovulation inhibition through suppression of luteinizing hormone, thickening of cervical mucosa to prevent sperm transport, and endometrium development disruption. Additionally, the Copper IUD releases copper ions into the uterine cavity to create a toxic environment for sperm, inhibiting the transport to an egg. None of these actions induce abortion. Not only are the main mechanisms of action documented, but they are supported by science and accepted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And yet here we sit with 1 in 6 OBGYNs from this study and much higher levels from other specialties, falsely and inaccurately believing that IUDs and emergency contraception are abortifacients. The trusted medical professionals, potentially providing the reproductive care and contraceptive management to our communities. It makes my head spin.

But more importantly, how do we fix this problem? I am a fixer, always have been and always will be. Of course, we do not know if this data is generalizable outside of this specific sample. However, from community conversations, client’s lived experiences, and the political chaos we are experiencing-I would be highly surprised if the data was not generalizable. We have a problem when those who have been trained in the basis of science, do not believe, or are misinformed about the science.

We know several states have already taken action to attack access to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and emergency contraception, arguing that these methods should be labeled as abortifacients. In an environment with little to no access to abortion services, it is severely counterproductive to reduce access to pregnancy prevention methods. We need policies to ensure stable and then increased access to some of the most effective contraceptive methods that are being challenged by the GOP and evidently physicians, including IUDs and emergency contraception.

We need to see movement and support for clear and accurate labeling of contraceptives by the Food and Drug Administration. Labeling accuracy ensures unnecessary attacks on contraceptive method based on the scientific methods of action. For example, emergency contraception labels currently state that the medication could keep a fertilized zygote from implanting in the uterine lining. The GOP has identified this as abortion. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has provided evidence that such scenario is unlikely.

So, what do we do now? Educate, everyone. The public, the medical community, friends, family, kiddos! Everyone needs accurate information on how contraception works!

About the author: Jessica Scharfenberg
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