Tampa Tribune Pushes Bad Science On Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling

A Tampa Tribune editorial celebrating the Supreme Court's decision to allow companies to discriminate against certain types of birth control in their insurance plans furthered the flawed concept that the government was forcing companies to provide “life-ending morning-after pills.” In fact, the scientific community has found that the disputed forms of contraception are not abortifacients.

Tampa Tribune Pushed Misleading Claim That Disputed Forms Of Contraceptives Are Abortifacients

Tampa Tribune: “There Was Little Concern” That Companies “Were Being Forced By Washington To Offer Their Employees Life-Ending Morning-After Pills” Against Owners' Religious Belief. In a July 1 editorial, The Tampa Tribune misleadingly pushed the claim that the federal government was forcing companies to provide “life-ending morning-after pills” to their employees through their employer sponsored health insurance coverage:

At issue in the two cases -- one involving Hobby Lobby Stores, the other, Conestoga Wood Specialties -- was the Affordable Care Act's mandate that businesses provide insurance covering contraception, including forms of birth control such as morning-after pills that some religions view as akin to abortion.


The government clearly made no effort to find the “least restrictive” way to pursue its goal. Indeed, throughout this legal battle, the administration has seemed more concerned with appeasing the pro-abortion crowd than finding a reasonable solution.

There seemed to be little concern that the citizens who believe terminating life at any stage is a mortal sin were being forced by Washington to offer their employees life-ending morning-after pills. [Tampa Tribune, 7/1/14]

Science And Medical Experts Agree That These Contraceptives Do Not Terminate Life And Are Not Abortifacients

Former FDA Assistant Commissioner: “These Products Are Not Abortifacients. And Their Only Connection To Abortion Is That They Can Prevent The Need For One.” According to NPR, studies have shown that “morning-after pills” such as Plan B work by “preventing ovulation, and therefore, fertilization” and do not “inhibit implantation”:

The constant references to Plan B and ella as abortion-causing pills frustrates Susan Wood, a professor of health policy at George Washington University and a former assistant commissioner for women's health at the FDA.

“It is not only factually incorrect, it is downright misleading. These products are not abortifacients,” she says. “And their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one.”


For years, scientists knew the pills, particularly Plan B, were highly effective in preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex but weren't exactly sure how they managed that. “It wasn't really clear whether it worked before ovulation or after ovulation,” says Wood.

Scientists did know the drug worked primarily by preventing ovulation. It stops an egg from being released from a woman's ovary and thus prevents any chance of fertilization and pregnancy. But they also thought the drug might make it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in a woman's uterus.

Technically, that's not an abortion, says Wood.

“We know that about half of fertilized eggs never stick around. They just pass out of the woman's body,” she says. “An abortifacient is something that interrupts an established pregnancy.”

But people like [Gene] Rudd [senior vice president of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and a practicing OB-GYN in Bristol, Tenn.] worry that even if what the drugs do is not technically abortion, it's still objectionable if it happens after fertilization.

But it turns out, at least when it comes to Plan B, there is now fairly definitive research that shows the only way it works is by preventing ovulation, and therefore, fertilization.

“We've learned a lot about how these drugs work,” says Diana Blithe, a biochemist and contraceptive researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “I think it's time to revise our speculations about how things might work in view of data that show how things do work.”

For example, says Blithe, a study published just last year led the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics to declare that Plan B does not inhibit implantation. And some abortion opponents in the medical community are beginning to accept that conclusion.

“Up until recently I would not prescribe the Plan B product because we didn't have enough science to say it doesn't have a post-fertilization effect,” says Rudd. “Now, I'm becoming -- sitting on the fence with that.” [NPR, 2/21/13]

New York Times: Morning After Pills “Delay Ovulation” And Do Not Disrupt Fertilized Eggs. The New York Times explained that the claim that morning-after contraception disrupts fertilized eggs is misleading and inaccurate, and points out that in reality the morning after pill delays ovulation to prevent pregnancy:

But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. 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.

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. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents' definition of abortion-inducing drugs. In contrast, RU-486, a medication prescribed for terminating pregnancies, destroys implanted embryos. [The New York Times, 6/5/12]

National Catholic Reporter: “There Is Overwhelming Scientific Evidence That The IUD And Plan B Work Only As Contraceptives.” Prize-winning religious scholar Jamie L. Manson explained in the National Catholic Reporter that the “overwhelming scientific evidence” shows that “there is only one drug approved to induce abortions,” and neither IUDs nor morning-after contraception, more commonly known as “Plan B,” are considered to be that drug:

The reality is that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the IUD and Plan B work only as contraceptives. Since Ella is new to the market, it has not been studied as extensively. But as of now, there is no scientific proof that Ella acts as an abortifacient, either.

There is only one drug approved to induce abortion. It is called RU-486 (mifepristone) and is not on the FDA's list of approved contraception. It is available only by prescription and no employer is forced to pay for it as part of an employee health plan.

To understand why scientists believe that the IUD, Plan B and Ella are not abortifacients, it is important first to understand the biology of conception. In order for a woman to become pregnant after sexual intercourse, her ovaries must release an egg (ovulation). Sperm can remain viable inside her reproductive tract for five days. Therefore, if intercourse takes place up to five days before ovulation or within two days after, both sperm and egg are viable and the egg cell can be fertilized.

Now, just because an egg is fertilized doesn't necessarily mean that it will develop into an embryo. For that to happen, the fertilized egg must be implanted into the endometrium that lines the uterus. Implantation happens seven days after fertilization, if it happens at all. Scientists estimate that, at a minimum, two-thirds of fertilized eggs fail to implant. Some scientists estimate that the number may even be as high as 80 percent, according to Discover Magazine.

For this reason, according to the medical definition, a woman is not considered pregnant until the developing embryo successfully implants the lining of the uterus. [National Catholic Reporter, 2/20/12 via Media Matters]

For more on conservative misinformation surrounding the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, click here.