Right now, emergency contraception, or the “morning after pill”, (Plan B, Next Choice) is available to men and women from a local pharmacy like Duane Reade, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, as well as from their doctor. If you’re over 17 years of age, you can walk right up to the pharmacy counter and ask for EC. If you’re under 17, you can still get EC from a drugstore, but you need a prescription to do so. The medical community has concluded that there is no scientific reason why teens shouldn’t have the same, unfettered access to EC as anyone else. It’s not like the Sudafed they have locked up behind the counter – for which must sign and provide government ID – that can be abused or used for making illegal narcotics like meth. It’s just a lil progestin – a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone which is naturally produced in the ovaries.
If there is no medical reason to block teens from getting EC, then why the restrictons? Reproductive rights groups asked the same thing and a court decided that there was no real reason to make a distinction between folks over or under the age of 17. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR),
On March 23, 2009…The Court found that the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] “acted in bad faith and in response to political pressure,” “departed in significant ways from the agency’s normal procedures,” and engaged in “repeated and unreasonable delays.” In addition, the court found that the FDA’s justification for denying over-the-counter access to 17 year olds “lacks all credibility,” and was based on “fanciful and wholly unsubstantiated ‘enforcement’ concerns.”
Not only does the FDA have no medical legs to stand on, but it appears that some shady business was involved when Plan B was being considered as an OTC option. From a 2009 CRR press release,
Before its action on Plan B, the FDA had never restricted a non-prescription drug based on a person’s age, nor had the Bush Administration ever been consulted by the FDA about an over-the-counter drug application. Depositions of senior FDA officials by the Center in 2006 indicated that the Bush Administration sought to unduly influence the agency during the Plan B application review process. Testimony also indicated that officials involved in the decision-making process were concerned about losing their jobs if they did not follow the Administration’s political directives.
It has been a year since the decision and the FDA has still not made any progress fulfilling the court’s order – to revisit the age and behind-the-counter restrictions. Clearly, the CRR is not happy and they’re urging everyone to put pressure on the FDA to get a move on.
Women over the age of 17 might be concerned as well. Amanda Marcotte notes that,
Laws like this, which make you take the walk of shame to get EC… stigmatize the idea of self-care for women. They make women feel guilty for wanting to avoid the hassle of unintended pregnancy. They subject women who use post-coital birth control to an extra level of shaming from mostly male authority.
That’s not cool. So what do you think? Are you of the opinion that allowing sexually active teens to get EC like they would get condoms or lube will encourage irresponsible sexual behavior? Or do you believe that teens taking EC is way better than teens with unintended pregnancy? I remind you that teens can get EC now. This is about making it easy, removing the shame and empowering them to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
For more information on emergency contraception/the morning after pill, visit Planned Parenthood.