It'll probably come as a shock to many conservatives, but there are a lot of women out there who just don't want to be pregnant ... right now. Sure, abortion is one way to keep that from happening, but the less invasive way, aside from using regular birth control devices like condoms, diaphragms, IUDs and the like, is to make sure you have a small supply of something like Plan B One-Step in the medicine cabinet for those occasions when the condom breaks, the diaphragm slips—or in the heat of passion, you just forget them altogether.
But there's a problem: According to the French company HRA Pharma, which manufactures the "morning after pill" NorLevo—which is medically almost identical to common American brands like Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, My Way and several other generic "emergency contraception" (EC) drugs—NorLevo doesn't work as effectively for women weighing more than 165 pounds, and becomes entirely ineffective for women weighing 176 pounds or more.
And guess what the weight of the average American woman is? If you guessed "166.2 pounds," hand yourself a cigar! In other words, all of those EC drugs having a good chance of failing to prevent pregnancy in the average American woman.
According to an article posted on Feministing.com, "in 2011 a professor of obstetrics and gynecology [Anna Glasier] at the University of Edinborough [sic] published research showing that emergency contraceptive pills [whose main ingredient is levonorgestrel] were less effective on women who weighed more. In 2012, HRA Pharma started reviewing this data and got permission from the European Union to update its warning. In 2014, every single box of NorLevo will say 'Studies suggest that NorLevo is less effective in women weighing [165 pounds] or more and not effective in women weighing [176 pounds] or more' and that NorLevo 'is not recommended…if you weigh [165 pounds] or more.'"
What's that you say? You haven't heard any American pharmaceutical company—most notably Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, manufacturer of Plan B—informing the public of this important development? Well, the day's still young, and this story is all over the press, so it may happen soon—but if it doesn't, there's an interesting quirk in American law that says that if the brand name manufacturer of a drug doesn't change its own product information, then the manufacturers of knock-offs, er, generic versions of the same drug can't change their product information either!
Now, there are a couple of prescription-only non-levonorgestrel EC drugs on the market, but they're generally considered to be less effective than Plan B and its generics, and often have side effects like nausea and vomiting. Moreover, as an article by Molly Redden of Mother Jones magazine notes, "It is not clear whether drugmakers can formulate an effective levonorgestrel pill for women who weigh more than 165 pounds. 'A dose increase of levonorgestrel is not proven to be a solution for this problem,' notes [Karina] Gajek, the HRA Pharma spokeswoman. 'However, women with higher weight are advised to discuss alternative emergency contraceptive options with their physician: IUD or alternative oral emergency contraceptive.'"
And IUDs aren't cheap; it costs anywhere between $500 and $900 to get one inserted.
Of course, the commenters to the Mother Jones article had advice to offer: "Crossing your legs works for women of all sizes!" wrote one asshole. "How about Plan C: hang yourself for humanity?" wrote another. And then there's the ever-popular, "Why should we be required to pay for increased dosages because a woman cannot control her caloric—or penile—intake?"
So good luck, BBWs: Your choices of how to have sex while not having children have just gotten fewer—and there's a bunch of people out there who have no intention of helping you with that.
UPDATE: According to Mother Jones magazine's website, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has responded to the magazine's earlier revelation of the ineffectiveness of "Plan B" type "morning after" pills.
"The FDA is currently reviewing the available and related scientific information on this issue, including the publication upon which the Norlevo labeling change was based," FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson wrote in an email to Mother Jones' Molly Redden. "The agency will then determine what, if any, labeling changes to approved emergency contraceptives are warranted."