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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

A Buy Now, Don't Pay Later Plan

September 04, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

A woman called me this morning to ask, "So, what do you think of this new 'morning-after pill?' "

"Is that the one Mark McGwire uses to hit all those home runs?" I asked back.

"No, stupid," she said, somehow knowing my nickname. "This is the pill that prevents pregnancy after the fact."

"It prevents something after?"

"Yes."

"It keeps you from doing something after you've done it?"

"Right."

"Isn't that like closing the barn door after the horse is gone?"

"Look, it's simple," she said, suddenly realizing that so am I. "Instead of a woman taking a birth control pill before sex, a woman now can take a birth control pill after sex."

"How long after?" I asked.

"Why?"

"Well, I had sex with a woman in 1991. Maybe I'd better let her know."

*

I turned to Page 1--I usually begin reading on Page 4--and there it was: A big story about the Food and Drug Administration's approval of an "emergency" drug that can block a pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.

It was good news, although better news would have been the Food and Drug Administration's approval of a food that could work after sex.

Preferably, something with chocolate.

The new drug is known as Preven. It seems an adequate name, although my first choice would have been Preg-No.

With the FDA's seal of approval on Wednesday, the pill may now be packaged, labeled and marketed in the United States, same as deodorant.

This means that we will soon be stuck viewing TV commercials featuring two women--probably playing tennis--who confide in one another about a new pill that makes a woman feel "more secure," or maybe "as fresh as if Bill and I had spent last night playing Scrabble."

I can hear those ads now:

"Preven!

"So Lovers Won't Be Mothers."

If I have my facts straight, which would be a first, these morning-after pills will first come in a kit that requires a prescription.

Therefore, it will not be available right away on the counter, next to the Bufferin, Pepto-Bismol and other products people use after sex.

According to the story I read, a kit will contain four pills--two to be swallowed within 72 hours of sex, two to take 12 hours later--plus a home pregnancy test, just to be sure you're not pregnant.

It sounds like a complete kit, just like those shoe polish ones they sell with both the wax and the brush.

A company called Gynetics Inc., based in Somerville, N.J., is manufacturing the pill, which leads me to believe that thousands and thousands of New Jersey men are now speeding in their automobiles toward Somerville.

As usual, the men aren't the ones who have to take the pill. I know plenty of men who would gladly take a pill, if only somebody would make a pill. A lot of us would be much happier to do our part regarding birth control if that box inside our bedside drawer contained a bunch of little pills.

Millions and millions of dollars are spent on medical research in this country and we still can't come up with a pill for a man that prevents pregnancy, other than Sominex.

I was pleased to learn--as I'm sure many pro-life supporters were--that this Preven breakthrough is not some drug that aborts a pregnancy. What it does is halt ovulation, before an egg can become fertilized.

(If this were sex education class, I could now show you some slides.)

A clergyman or two will remind us at this point that couples should abstain from sex entirely, except when attempting to have a baby. Remember, procreation yes, recreation no.

But on the slim chance that somebody in America is having sex without trying to create a little person who looks just like them, Preven might come in handy.

*

A university authority on ethical situations that develop after scientific findings had this reaction: "Every sexually active woman should have this kit."

The only thing I know is that every sexually active woman has my name crossed off in her address book.

But I think he's right:

This pill is a buy now, don't pay later offer that could help a lot of lovers who are too lazy, too forgetful or too drunk to take a pill before sex.

The best part for women is, these pills will still be useful after sex--unlike men.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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