- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) Student leaders at James Madison University are trying to reverse a school decision to stop selling a "morning-after" contraceptive pill available on campus for eight years.
On Friday, the JMU Board of Visitors halted the sale of the pill which contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that is a contraceptive, but that critics say can also induce a type of early abortion.
Among those critics is Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican, who wrote JMU President Linwood H. Rose last month to criticize the school for dispensing the drug.
The JMU Student Government Association has begun a petition drive to get the board to reverse its decision, said Kellie Hanlon, a sophomore from Fairfax who is a student government senator.
"The decision was made, we felt, based not on what the students wanted or needed," she said Monday.
In a letter responding to Mr. Marshall, Mr. Rose wrote that the drug does not work the same way as RU-486, a morning-after pill that is considered a nonsurgical method of abortion. Levonorgestrel works by preventing eggs from being produced or becoming fertilized. It can prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus, though.
Mr. Rose distributed Mr. Marshall's letter to board members before their regular meeting Friday. He also gave them his letter of response, which states that the Food and Drug Administration classifies the drug as a contraceptive.
The drug cannot terminate a pregnancy, Mr. Rose wrote, citing the Federal Register, a government publication.
Mr. Rose told Mr. Marshall that JMU was one of 10 public universities in the state that offered the drug at their health centers. The others include the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University, he said.
At the meeting, board member Mark D. Obenshain moved that JMU stop selling levonorgestrel, school spokesman Fred Hilton said. Mr. Hilton said a clear majority of the board approved the motion, but that a vote count was not taken.
Mr. Obenshain said that causing the discharge of a fertilized egg constitutes a type of abortion. A public university should not support the use of such a drug through mandatory student fees, he said.
"One of the effects of the pill is to cause the destruction of a fertilized egg," he said. "Do people categorize that as having an abortion effect? Yes. Do I? Yes."
JMU women with prescriptions for the drug must now have them filled at local pharmacies, Mr. Hilton said. The drug had been available at JMU since 1995. The school health center has dispensed the drug 2,107 times, Mr. Rose wrote in his letter.

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