Dear Black Mirror, A Morning-After Pill is Not an Abortion Pill

Come on, Black Mirror creators! An emergency contraceptive pill is not an abortion pill.

3 min read

Black Mirror, a dystopian series on Netflix, has captured the imagination of the world by brilliantly channeling our biggest concerns about how technology will control our lives in the future. When the latest season launched recently, I was hooked.

The second episode of the current season called Erkangel directed by none other than actor/director Jodie Foster is by far the best I’ve seen. Its brilliance lies in capturing a fear I live with every day as a mother. Can I watch over my child’s every move to keep her safe? And what would I do if I had the tools?

BUT then the brilliance of the episode falters when it makes an elementary mistake. It equates an emergency contraceptive pill with an abortion pill!

Dear brilliant creators of Black Mirror, you guys have created a cult following, especially among the young who live and breathe your content. This is the same audience that is using emergency contraceptive pills, often misusing them. It is your responsibility not to confuse them. So let’s get our facts straight.

What are Emergency Contraceptive Pills?

Come on, Black Mirror creators! An emergency contraceptive pill is not an abortion pill.
Emergency contraceptives prevent pregnancies, not abort them.
(Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)

EC pills, E pills, morning-after pills, all sold under various names, are pills you take in case you have unprotected sex and you want to prevent a pregnancy. It’s an emergency contraceptive, meaning it’s not meant to be your go-to choice for contraception.

EC Pills work best when taken within 12 hours and their efficacy wanes with each passing hour.

How do they work? They will stop the release of an egg. The pills also may stop sperm from fertilising the egg. They may also prevent a fertilised egg from getting implanted in the uterus. But they do NOT terminate a pregnancy that’s already taken shape.

If you are already pregnant and you take an emergency contraceptive pill, it will not work. It won’t harm the pregnancy at all. These pills work best if taken upto 12 hours, but can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.
Dr Suneeta Mittal, Director and HOD, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute

Taking an overdose of these pills will not cause an abortion. And that’s where the otherwise brilliant episode falters. Here the mother is shown mixing emergency contraceptive pills in a smoothie and feeding it to her already pregnant daughter.

How Do Abortion Pills Work?

Now abortion pill is something you take after your pregnancy has been established and you want to terminate it. Again, the decision to take the pill is taken under the guidance of a doctor. You need to be sure it’s the right choice for you. The pill is effective in aborting a pregnancy up to 12 weeks post which you’ll possibly need to opt for a medical procedure.

No, abortion pill is NOT an emergency contraceptive pill.

How does it work? There are a series of steps involved.

  • First you are given a medicine called mifepristone to induce the abortion. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone.
  • After 6 to 48 hours of taking the first pill, you take misoprostol that helps complete the process. This leads to cramping and bleeding in the uterus that stops once the pregnancy tissue comes out.

Why What Black Mirror Shows is Irresponsible

Jodie Foster is an intelligent actor/director and Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror, is often regarded as a genius. But by making a mistake so basic in the name of creative license is dangerous. The show reaches across to millions of people, a lot of them young and impressionable. A lot of them who may or may not have adequate knowledge about contraception.

It’s hard enough getting information about contraception across to them. The last thing you need is a popular TV series perpetuating falsehoods. Black Mirror, do better!

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