Last Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration was prepared to recommend that Plan B (also known as the morning after pill) should be offered over the counter without age restrictions. After ten months of reviewing scientific data, the FDA concluded that the emergency contraceptive is safe and effective and should be made available to all women who have the potential to bear children. Apparently, U.S Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disagreed. She vetoed this decision.
Although Sibelius agreed that scientific data did prove the drug to be safe and effective, she was not convinced that those using the emergency contraceptive would understand how to properly use it.
What is Plan B and it Works
Plan B One Step is an emergency hormonal contraceptive. If taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, it is 89% effective at
preventing unwanted pregnancies. The pill does not induce abortion. Instead, it keeps the fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterus.
The Prevailing Guidelines
The current guidelines on Plan B is that women age 17 and older must ask a pharmacist for the pill. Women who are 16 and younger must have a prescription to access the drug.
Those Who Support the Veto
Many people are relieved that Secretary Sebelius vetoed the FDA’s decision. Those who support the veto believe that emergency contraceptives such as Plan B should be handled with great care and under the supervision of a doctor. The pill can pose health risks such as severe bleeding and lower abdominal pain. Many anti-abortion groups claim that the pill induces abortion (it doesn’t) and taking too many anti-abortion drugs (which Plan B isn’t) can cause death.
In addition to this, supporters of the veto claim that the emergency contraceptive makes women more vulnerable to rape and abuse. Because the pill would be over the counter, rapists and abusers can use the drug to cover up their criminal behavior.
Those Who Oppose the Veto
Those who oppose the veto believe that politics are being placed above the health of women and their freedom to choose. Restricting access to the emergency contraceptive can discourage women or make it more difficult for them to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Many unwanted pregnancies and abortions could be reduced if more women had access to Plan B. In addition, allowing the pill to be sold over the counter could help women or girls who were raped, molested, or abused and embarrassed to tell law enforcement or seek medical treatment prevent pregnancies.
Believe it or not, this is not the first time Plan B has taken political heat. When the pill first became available in the United States, many anti-abortion groups and pro-life advocates, began a smear campaign claiming that the pill induces abortion. In 2005, the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics supported over the counter access of the emergency contraceptive with no age restrictions. Despite this, the FDA delayed the decision. In 2006, the FDA approved the drug to be used without a prescription only for women who were 18 and older.
In 2009, the FDA was forced to lower its age restriction to 17 and reevaluate why the drug was not over the counter with an age restriction.
What do you think? Should Plan B be offered the over counter? Should there be an age restriction? Sound off in a comment.