In the modern civilized democratic society, human rights are of paramount importance. In all spheres of relations regulated by law, a person and a citizen acts as a subject of the corresponding rights, freedoms, and duties. The beginning of the current legislation is the recognition of people, their rights, and freedoms as the highest value. Humanity now faces the growing negative trends in the demographic situations. These include the deterioration of the reproductive health of men and women, and, consequently, the emergence of new methods of overcoming infertility. The experts started talking about the prospect of forming a new generation of human rights associated with the preservation of the reproductive health of nations. This is how reproductive rights appeared, becoming part of the legal rights and freedoms related to reproduction and sexual health. They are differently understood and enshrined in different countries of the world, but the main points are equal.
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Reproductive rights may include some or all of the following provisions: the right to legal and safe abortion, the right to birth control, the right to access quality reproductive health care, and the right to education and access to information to enable informed and free reproductive health choice. Reproductive rights can also include the right to education about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. Of equal importance is freedom from forced sterilization, abortion, and contraception, as well as protection from gender-based practices such as female and male genital mutilation.
The issue of reproductive rights began to be developed as a form of human rights at the UN International Conference on Human Rights in 1968. One of the conference outcomes was a non-binding appeal that parents have the right to choose how many children they want to have and how often they should be born (Khaliq, 2018). Opponents of legalizing abortion see the term “reproductive rights” as a euphemism to sway the emotions in favor of abortion. National Right to Life has called “reproductive rights” a fictitious name for “the right to abortion” (Flowers, 2018). They also note the complete absence of any reproductive rights among men. Thus, reproductive rights can be considered a controversial term, but it is undoubtedly crucial for modern society.
Determining the legal nature of reproductive rights, it should be noted that they are complex and include several personal rights. They are enshrined in international legal documents on human rights and freedoms and in the Constitution. Thus, the most directly related to reproductive rights is the right of every person to life, health protection, and physical integrity. Mention should also be made of privacy, personal and family secrets, and the right to the protection of personal dignity and the principle of equality between men and women. In addition, one of the critical places is occupied by the issue of termination of pregnancy. It is associated with the woman’s personality and the potential birth of a new person.
An unplanned pregnancy is a common situation around the world; most often, it ends with an abortion. Therefore, if there is a risk of an unplanned pregnancy resulting from unprotected intercourse, it is necessary to take emergency contraception measures as soon as possible. In addition, when choosing a method of emergency contraception, its effectiveness in preventing unplanned pregnancy is one of the most critical parameters. Many modern people are still opposed to abortion. This is due to religious, moral, ethical, and other factors, and these people can be understood. However, one of the most important reproductive rights of a woman is to be responsible for her own body and actions. That is why emergency contraception, in many cases, is the necessary and only way out of the situation.
The discovery of sex hormones, first in 1929 estrogen and then progesterone, isolated in 1934, was a new stage in the development of contraception. Scientists proved the blocking effect of progesterone on follicular rupture. This was followed by a large number of reports on the physiological actions of these hormones. Then researchers received a semi-synthetic derivative of progesterone – norethisterone. At the same time, another substance was developed: norethynodrel. These two drugs that have a progesterone-like effect are called gestagen (progestin). In the mid-1950s, some animal experiments were carried out, making it possible to establish the biological properties of progestins (Connolly & Britton, 2017). In 1956, the first clinical studies of norsteroids began, which confirmed the anovulatory effect of progestins (Guillebaud, 2016). Thus, these results have unequivocally proved that norethynodrel and mestranol have a 100% effect on preventing pregnancy.
The first drug proposed for daily medical practice in the form of tablets was created in 1960. It contained 15 mg of norethynodrel and 0.15 mg of mestranol. Since that time, the history of the development of combined contraceptives began, which can be divided into four stages. At the first stage, the so-called 1st generation drugs with a high content of hormones were created. In 1996, at a European conference dedicated to gestagens in Germany, their classification and nomenclature were adopted, the main indications for clinical use were approved, and their definition was given (Connolly & Britton, 2017). In particular, the classification includes drugs containing Levonorgestrel (LNG), which includes Plan B.
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LNG in the minimum effective dose was included in the composition of phase contraceptive drugs developed for the first time in the United States in the early 1980s. The aim was to bring these drugs’ composition as close as possible to the level of hormones during the physiological menstrual cycle (Guillebaud, 2016). This drug development line has reached its highest rise with the development of biphasic and triphasic oral contraceptives. These drugs, containing the lowest LNG dose, do not affect blood pressure and glucose tolerance and do not cause changes in the lipid spectrum. Their use for medicinal purposes for acne is possible as well. These drugs can also have a beneficial effect on the epithelium of internal genital organs.
LNG was the first fully synthetic progestin; unlike the so-called prohormones, it does not require additional metabolic transformations to manifest its action. The bioavailability of LNG is 100%, but compared with other third-generation gestagens, LNG has a stronger androgenic, mineralocorticoid, and glucocorticoid effect (Mitchell, 2019). However, these effects in using low doses of LNG in the composition of phase contraceptive drugs have no clinical significance.
Modern emergency contraceptives are packaged with just one full-dose LNG pill, which should be taken as early as possible. It is important that LNG is not an abortive drug: it only prevents pregnancy while reducing the risk of abortion. If the pregnancy has already begun, the LNG pill will not interrupt it. Undoubtedly, emergency contraceptive pills cannot be used as a permanent contraceptive method. It is dangerous and not as effective as drugs designed specifically for long-term prevention of pregnancy.
Emergency contraceptive pills are surrounded by various legends. In the course of history, women did not trust these medications because they were afraid to ruin their health and lose the opportunity to become pregnant in the future. Many still believe that their action is abortive, and they will instantly destroy the entire endocrine system. The reason is that there are as many hormones in one pill as in a whole container of birth control for a month. Undoubtedly, the 1.5 mg dose of LNG that must be taken for emergency prevention of pregnancy is quite high. With conventional birth control pills, it can be obtained in about ten days (Mitchell, 2019). Nevertheless, it is not as dangerous as it sounds. The main side effects include changes in menstruation, nausea, or breast tenderness. However, one cannot take over one dose per menstrual cycle since this can lead to increased side effects due to an overdose.
On the one hand, the advent of Plan B pills did not inspire public confidence. People often treat interventions in their bodies with caution, so a tablet with such an effect might not seem the best remedy for women. However, on the other hand, more daring women, on the contrary, felt freer. Such a means, as it were, became their opportunity not to think about the consequences of unprotected intercourse. Undoubtedly, this cannot be called a positive trend. First, it leads to a deterioration in the moral character of society. Second, the regular use of such hormonal drugs leads to reproductive system disorders. As a result, women may have problems conceiving in the future. Despite this, Plan B remains a reasonably popular tool today. It has many advantages over other medicines. These include, for example, affordability and ease of use. Its safety cannot be denied as well: in isolated cases of use, it is harmless to the female body. Plan B does not have a substantial effect on the hormonal system and does not lead to significant disruption.
In today’s crowded world, the availability of such means is especially important. Now the institution of marriage is changing, and people have gained a high level of freedom in interpersonal relationships. They have numerous partners before settling down and marrying anyone. It cannot also be denied that the crime rate is quite high, in particular, rape. All these factors lead to an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies. Hence, women need a remedy to avoid them, and emergency contraception is one of the best. When used correctly, it allows control over the conception process, which is a clear manifestation of reproductive rights.
It is worth noting that the use of Plan B is associated with specific side effects that must be kept in mind. These include hives, rashes, itching, facial swelling, in other words, various allergic reactions. Plan B can also cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Besides, it can be a reason for headaches, dizziness, lower abdominal pain, and other unpleasant conditions. However, in general, it can be argued that the use of this drug is safe. Moreover, these effects can be related to various other pills, so women should not be afraid of it. Nevertheless, Plan B has been used for decades and has proven to be effective.
Modern society has multiple problems related to human reproductive rights. In particular, pregnancy and birth control is an essential aspect that requires careful consideration. Many people still do not understand the principles of female body functioning. They are hostile to emergency contraception, equating it with abortion. However, in many cases, pills such as Plan B are the best way to avoid an emergency. In addition, every woman has the right to make decisions about her reproductive system. That is why it is possible to equate reproductive rights with the rights to life, health care, immunity, and other citical human rights.
Connolly, A., & Britton, A. (2017). Women’s health in primary care. Cambridge University Press.
Flowers, P. (2018). The right-to-live movement, the Reagan administration, and the politics of abortion. Springer.
Guilleabud, J. (2016). Contraception today. CRC Press.
Khaliq, U. (2018). International human rights law documents. Cambridge University Press.
Mitchell, J. (2019). Levonogrestrel: For emergency birth control. Amazon Digital Services LLC.