05/05/2006 09:36 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The "B" Spot

I know women ejaculate. But I had no idea that we have our very own way of "pulling out."

Who knew? This fertilitis interruptus analogy is at the root of how emergency contraception works, the much-debated Plan B. This is that little pill that I recommend you store, by the six-pack, in your medicine cabinet.

You probably know by now that Plan B is not a "secret abortion," as its fundie opponents claim. They rely on the fact that most of us know very little, biologically speaking, about how one actually becomes pregnant. The Creationists market their Tinkerbelle Conception Myths with great gusto, and the next thing you know, the FDA is controlled by this nonsense.

I love learning about how Plan B works, because in addition to my ovular education, it casts some light on on the fallacy of Bible School notions about "when life begins."

Wanna what "beginnings" really look like? I did. And a biologist blogger named P.Z. Myers is my new guru.

His essay, on Why the Wingnuts Hate Plan B is the best science class you'll ever take-- where was he in 6th Grade Health?

I won't reprint it in its entirety, but it deserves your full fifteen minutes of attention:

[Plan B contraception] is a form of birth control that tells the woman's ovaries to hold off on releasing any eggs for a short while. It's called emergency contraception, because it is used by a woman who has, for whatever reason (rape, a broken condom, misplaced enthusiasm, second thoughts, anything) had unwanted sperm in her reproductive tract, and she wants to make sure that this isn't the moment her ovaries happen to pop a follicle.

Plan B is not an abortion.

Plan B doesn't help if one is already pregnant, and it doesn't affect any implanted zygotes. Pregnant women produce progesterone naturally.

Plan B gives women the ability to control, to a limited extent, when they will expel a gamete. In purely reproductive terms, it's a bit like a male's ability to control when he will ejaculate, or expel his gametes. That's it. No fertilized zygotes are involved, so that level of the birth control debate isn't even relevant. It's simple, responsible, and safe. You'd have to be insane to object to Plan B.

So why are Republicans holding it up?

This is an issue on which we can completely ignore any assertion that life begins at fertilization (which I personally find absurd), because it's irrelevant: fertilization doesn't take place. No zygote, no fetus, no embryo, no babies. The claim that this argument is about the life of a baby is null and void, and the opposition to Plan B makes it glaringly, brilliantly clear that this isn't about the sanctity of life at all: it's all about controlling a woman's ovaries. She will not be allowed to tamper with the timing of ovulation.

The ugly intent of the right wing fundies is unmasked right here, with no phony piety to hide their goals. They want the power to regulate a woman's physiology against her will.

Don't skip the comments, they're amazing, as this visitor attests:

This post and discussion is the best example I have ever come across of what every blog aspires to be. Anyone with a free half-hour who is even remotely intrigued by reprodutive biology or blogging in general, should be encouraged to read it.

First, the explanation of the science behind pregnancy and contraception is succinct and easy to understand for anyone with no more than high-school biology.

Second, the comments that follow address the issues PZ chose not to. The questions asked and the answers supplied paint a  complimentary picture of the intellectual depth of Pharyngula's readership. There's discussion of research, religion, politics, feminism -- you name it -- almost all of it delivered in calm, reasoned tones.


UPDATE: Headline today: Use of Contraception Drops, Slowing Decline of Abortion Rate