“The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with political repercussions for President Obama.
The government’s decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription.” see full article here.
I literally just wrote a piece about this. I was really hoping there would be another outcome.
Ever since Teva’s Plan B was approved for sale as a prescription in 1999, there has been controversy regarding to whom it should be sold. On April 5, 2013, a ruling was made by Judge Edward Korman to make the most common morning after pill available to women and girls of all ages without a prescription. Currently, you must be 17 years old and show proof age at the pharmacy window to buy Plan B. This ruling gives the FDA 30 days to lift the age restrictions on the pill and its generic form, while controversy continues between Judge Korman and people like Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.
In February of 2011, Teva filed a petition to make Plan B One-step, a one-pill version of Plan B, available over-the-counter without age or access restrictions. In December, the FDA rejected Teva’s decision because of a statement made by Secretary Sebelius. In her statement, she claims that there was no testing done on 11-year-old girls. Being that 10% of girls in that age range have reached menstruation, there is a possibility they could use Plan B. Thus far, there has been no testing on that age group, therefore they shouldn’t allow it to go over-the counter.
Regardless of what has happened in past years, this ruling still stands. Judge Korman claims that “her decision was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” in regards to Secretary Sebelius.
Recently, the FDA has done rigorous research on what could happen if the pill were taken in a way it wasn’t supposed to be and have found it safe. But now there are other issues aside ones having to do with science. Parents are concerned, values are being questioned. The real question is, what we should be more concerned about?
From a moral standpoint, I agree that up until a certain age, parents and doctors should have a say in who gets to take these pills especially if there has been no research on what the side effects could be on a preteen taking Plan B. If any girl or woman is taking Plan B, chances are there was an “accident” and while accidents do happen, not all teens are perfectly stable or mature enough to make the right decisions when they’re in this kind of situation.
“Overall, it shows a lack of caution, if you ask me,” Landa told FoxNews.com. “Of course the prevention of unwanted pregnancy is a good thing. The problem is it encourages women to be more cavalier and not use more reliable birth control we’d like them to be using, including barrier methods that protect against sexually transmitted diseases.” [FoxNews]
It is true that most consumers of Plan B only take it once or twice in the course of a year, but who is to say that if becomes easier to access they won’t rely on it more?
“Fear of pregnancy is a deterrent to sexual activity,” Dr. Davenport, recent president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists said. “When you introduce something like this, it changes people’s behaviors, and they have more risky sex. Teens will be counting on this morning-after pill to bail them out, and they’ll have more casual encounters.” [NY Times]
Girls who are uneducated may abuse the freedom they have if they are able to buy the pill with no questions being asked. Plan B should not be used as a normal form of regular birth control. Not only is Plan B not intended for that purpose but there are many well-documented side effects to overusing Plan B including significant weight gain, depression, ovarian cyst enlargement, gall bladder disease and high blood pressure.
“This is not a magic bullet,” said Dr. Susan Wood, an associate professor of health policy at George Washington University. “It’s just one more tool in the toolbox — one more option that can help women have that second chance if they need it.” [NY Times]
With any medication, there are precautions to be taken, which is why even Sudafed is put behind the counter and you have to show ID to purchase it. So why should it be different for Plan B One-Step? The FDA says in regards to regulating cigars, but perhaps it could be used just the same for this case. “Just like with cars, all cars are under the safety regulations of the transportation agency and the mercedes is not exempt from this. So neither should any product of tobacco because FDA regulations are there to PROTECT the public.”
Side effects and over-usage are the arguments against this ruling, and both points are valid in my opinion. The counterargument could be the following. It is important for every girl or woman to have easy access to emergency contraception in order to prevent more unexpected pregnancies. If we look at other countries that supply birth control for free due to universal healthcare, the UK, for example, there have not been any recent overdoses or side effects from Plan B at all.
Personally, I think the current procedure for teens under 17 to acquire any kind birth control, whether it be pills, the shot, and Plan B is too hard and a lot of the time requires money which most teens don’t have. If you think about how many steps they have to take, generally first telling their parents, going to a doctor, getting a prescription then going to a pharmacy, that might scare some girls away. And on top of that having to pay $50 or so for Plan B – whether it be locked up behind a counter or not, that is a lot of money that even I at 21 years old would feel questionable about spending.
I do believe that easy access to birth control is important, but I’m not trying to promote the over-usage of drugs either. I would say that the ruling should be changed so that the age restrictions are lifted HOWEVER I don’t believe that Plan B should be shelved. Teens ages 13-16 should have to speak with a pharmacist before being able to purchase the drug. It is easy to assume that if they are having sex they are responsible enough to read instructions or understand how Plan B (or any other form of contraception) works but that might not always be the case.
When it comes to sex, anything to do with it, I think there will always be some kind of controversy because the topic itself hits on science, religion, politics, among other things. However this is being handled without proper evaluation of the situation and while I do agree with part of the ruling, unless girls under 17 years of age are given clear instructions on how to use Plan and the side effects from a pharmacist, I do not believe the age restrictions should be lifted.