And at every meeting it was explained to the IOM panel that ella, newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a “emergency contraceptive,” is — just like the abortion drug RU-486 — a selective progesterone receptor modulator. By blocking progesterone, ella, like RU-486, can end even an “established” pregnancy. Thus the IOM committee was well-aware of the facts: Ella does not prevent disease. Its mandated coverage not only fails to “fit” with the stated intent of the law, but, as an abortion-inducing drug, its inclusion directly violates Mikulski’s assurances.
Despite this knowledge, in July 2011, during the IOM committee’s press conference announcing the release of its report, Chairwoman Dr. Linda Rosenstock explained, unequivocally, that the drug ella was included in her committee’s recommendation. Though Rosenstock stated her committee considered “every” comment that was presented before it, the IOM report utterly failed to address the serious concerns repeatedly presented at the meetings about ella’s abortion-inducing quality. Nowhere in its 250-page report did the committee even mention ella’s mechanisms of action.
Also absent from the 250-page report was any mention that other FDA-labeled “contraceptives,” including intrauterine devices and Plan B, can work to prevent implantation of an already developing embryo — another fact presented at every meeting, a fact the FDA notes in its labeling of the drugs and a fact that even HHS has included in its information on birth control methods.
Still not convinced that the IOM’s recommendation was based on an agenda, rather than an independent, evidence-based review? Dr. Anthony Lo Sasso, a member of the IOM panel, dissented from the recommendation because of its lack of transparency and subjective advocacy.
In addition, the IOM’s own report acknowledged that the panel would have considered surgical abortion as a “preventive service” even had it not felt otherwise constrained by the Affordable Care Act.
Certainly, HHS can cite the IOM panel as recommending including ella and other life-ending drugs and devices in the HHS mandate that is being forced on nearly all Americans. However, it is indefensible to omit the important fact that the anti-life recommendation was, as Lo Sasso describes, “filtered through a lens of advocacy” — a lens so warped, it would equate destruction of human life with disease prevention.
Rather than support its creation, the evidence demands that HHS repeal its mandate.
Attorney Anna Franzonello is staff counsel with Americans United for Life.