Jacob Rees-Mogg wrong to suggest morning after pill is ‘abortifacient’

7 February 2022
What was claimed

The morning after pill is an abortifacient, so induces an abortion.

Our verdict

The morning after pill doesn’t induce an abortion, but rather prevents ovulation so no egg is fertilised, preventing pregnancy, in the manner of contraception.

Last Thursday, in the House of Commons, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared to refer to the morning after pill as an ‘abortifacient’.

The medical definition of an abortifacient is a drug, chemical preparation, or even herb that induces an abortion. 

But the morning after pill doesn’t induce an abortion. It prevents pregnancy from occurring after unprotected sex by delaying the release of an egg (ovulation). 

This is why it’s referred to as emergency contraception (and is different from a medical abortion, induced by what’s sometimes described as the abortion pill, which is actually two different medications). 

The morning after pill delays ovulation so an egg isn’t fertilised following unprotected sex. This is why evidence suggests taking the morning after pill just after ovulation is not effective.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), says: “[Emergency contraception] prevents pregnancy, but it cannot end a pregnancy nor damage an existing pregnancy.”

BPAS has also called for Mr Rees-Mogg to correct the record.

According to the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in a case where emergency contraception is used when unprotected sex has also taken place earlier in the cycle, evidence suggests the morning after pill won’t disrupt an existing pregnancy and is not associated with fetal abnormality.

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What did Jacob Rees-Mogg say?

Mr Rees-Mogg’s comment was in response to Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, who mentioned that Boots has reduced the price of its morning after pill, before asking for a debate on the report of the all party parliamentary group on sexual and reproductive health in the UK, which she chairs.

The full exchange is as follows:

Dame Diana Johnson: I am sure that the Leader of the House will be delighted to know that, following a campaign by the women’s parliamentary Labour party, the journalist Rose Stokes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Boots has announced that it is slashing the price of its morning-after pill from £15.99 to £10.99, removing the sexist surcharge that is attached to that medication. It is interesting to note that Superdrug is still charging £13.49, whereas people can get generic emergency contraception for £3.99 on the Chemist4U website. I am raising this because cuts to public health budgets and the fragmentation of the NHS have meant that it is more difficult for women to access contraception advice. May we have a debate about the report of the all-party parliamentary group on sexual and reproductive health in the UK, which made clear recommendations on proper funding and accessibility for women’s contraceptive health services?

Jacob Rees-Mogg: The right honourable Lady cannot expect me to speak in favour of abortifacients.

Mr Rees-Mogg has previously spoken about his opposition to abortion due to his Catholic faith. 

Dame Diana has also called for Mr Rees-Mogg to correct the record.

Image by Chris McAndrew licensed under CC BY 3.0

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Jacob Rees-Mogg to request a correction regarding this claim.

He did not respond.

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