Last Friday, in a victory for reproductive health, an FDA panel approved a new form of emergency contraception (EC), ella®. Ella®, which has been available in Europe for over a year, reduces the risk of pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. While Plan B®, the only other brand of EC available in the US, can also be taken up to 5 days after sex, it is most effective within the first three days. In comparison, ella® works just as well on the fifth day as on the first. Unlike Plan B®, which is available without a prescription for women and men 17 and older, ella® will be available by prescription only. While this may be an advantage to some women whose insurance will only cover prescription medication, it presents yet another obstacle in terms of availability, especially for women who have no health insurance or whose insurance doesn’t cover EC.
It should come as no surprise that anti-choice groups are lining up in opposition to the approval, but the truth of the matter is that Ella’s® approval means that women have another safe and effective option when making choices about their reproductive health. Increasing access to more and better forms of birth control is an effective strategy in preventing unintended pregnancies and most people support it. Thankfully, the FDA agrees.