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Laura Hessburg, Senior Health Policy Advisor

From the desk of ... Laura Hessburg, Repro Health Watch

Celebrating ella

August 19, 2010 | Reproductive Health

On average, women spend at least 30 years being sexually active but trying to avoid pregnancy. That's an awfully long time considering no contraceptive is 100% effective and things don't always work out as planned.

That's why we're thrilled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new emergency contraceptive product that will be known as ella. When trying to avoid unintended pregnancy, having another type of safe and effective emergency contraception will increase the likelihood that a woman can quickly access a product that works well for her situation.

Ella is an FDA-approved contraceptive- not, as some contraception opponents claim, an abortion pill - and it is highly effective at preventing pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. It works by inhibiting or delaying ovulation.

The FDA's decision to approve ella was based entirely on scientific evidence, and we think it's terrific that politics didn't get in the way of science. Perhaps there is hope that the FDA will have the integrity to remove the baseless and harmful age restrictions currently imposed on the over-the-counter emergency contraceptives: Plan B One-Step and Next Choice. We encourage them to do so without delay.

Contraceptive use has been the driving force in reducing unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. It also improves overall health by enabling women to plan and space their pregnancies, contributing to dramatic declines in maternal and infant mortality. Bottom line: birth control is basic health care. The FDA's approval of ella is a great step forward, but now we need to ensure that regardless of which contraceptive a woman needs, she can access it safely and quickly.


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