Netflix’s “Black Mirror” aired an episode on Friday that angered the ardently pro-choice crowd. Titled “Arkangel,” the episode centers on parental control and trust issues. Included is a disturbing storyline about emergency contraception. That’s what sparked the complaints.
one of the episodes of @blackmirror conflates emergency contraception and the abortion pill, which is INFURIATING because emergency contraception can't terminate a pregnancy & conservatives use this falsehood against it all the time
— bored yet terrified (@morninggloria) December 29, 2017
Apparently it’s “right-wing framing” to think that anything that ends a pregnancy at any stage constitutes an abortion-causing agent.
You are falling for right-wing framing. Quibbling about whether it’s not an “abortion” if the egg hasn’t implanted just works to push the issue back to fertilization. Need to stand firm on right to choose in either case.
— Dan Tappan (@DanTappan) December 29, 2017
The problem is, however, that science doesn’t actually agree with this. Emergency contraception such as Plan B—one brand name of several for the “morning-after pill”—functions in several ways to prevent childbirth. This includes preventing pregnancy by preventing a woman’s egg from releasing at a time when sperm could reach it, thus preventing the creation of new human life, but it also includes starving an already fertilized egg, or zygote.
At the point of fertilization, a sperm and egg fuse and create unique human DNA distinct from the contributing egg and sperm. This point is scientifically defined as “conception.” Not just pro-lifers but also the entire medical profession defines this point as the genesis of a new human life. After this point, both a spontaneous and chemically induced miscarriage are medically labeled an abortion. One is simply elective and the other accidental.
Our evaluation suggests that UPA succeeds in preventing the
clinical appearance of pregnancies mainly by its negative
effects on endometrial receptivity, which is a postfertilization
— Tim Carney (@TPCarney) December 29, 2017
Information directly from the Food and Drug Administration’s page about emergency contraception and Plan B notes that: “Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation)” (emphasis added).
TeensHeath is a website run by Nemours, a large children’s hospital system, that describes itself as: “a safe, private place for teens who need honest, accurate information and advice about health, emotions, and life” from “doctor-approved” sources.” It says “A team of pediatricians and other medical experts reviews all KidsHealth content regularly to ensure the information is as current as possible.” This health information site agrees that emergency contraception: “may help prevent implantation. This type stays effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex” (emphasis added).
Netflix and “Black Mirror” got this right. The FDA and doctors agree that emergency contraception can block the implantation of a fertilized egg. For people who acknowledge the scientific reality that a new life is created at conception, that’s an abortion. It’s no longer raw genetic material, but a unique life, rapidly moving through the complex process of pregnancy that Twitter warriors should have learned in middle school science. At least they can still learn about it now, as adults. The same can’t be said for the tiny lives the morning-after pill starves to death.
We don’t need the media to spread more misinformation about contraception. It’s important to be clear when using things like emergency contraception as a plot point, because too many people don’t understand how their bodies and pregnancy work.