Plan B is an oral emergency contraceptive that has been all over the news lately. Better known as “the morning after pill,” the medication has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. A federal judge ruled on April 5, 2013 that Plan B was to be made available to all “women,” over-the-counter, regardless of age. Now, the FDA has decided that at least one version of the drug, Plan B One-Step will be made available to all women, over-the-counter, but they must provide proof-of-age and be 15 or older.
Advocates claim that this is an advance for women’s rights, reproductive rights and the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. It very well may be. As a mother, I am deeply troubled by this ruling.
Plan B One-Step is not a completely benign medication without risks. In fact, it has known side effects that could be quite troubling and like any medication, could even cause an allergic reaction. I am concerned that very young girls will now have the ability to bypass not just their parents, but ANY medical professionals, including a pharmacist, to purchase and ingest this medication. A young girl is very unlikely to have the experience or education to know that she needs to read the label carefully before taking the drug. She needs to check for contraindications. She needs to be aware that the medication may not work and what to do if that’s the case. She needs to know what the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are, as that is life-threatening. She may find a false sense of security in taking this pill and not even take precautions or maintain a sense of awareness in the following weeks. This is truly frightening.
Parents are legally responsible for their children until the age of 18. There is a good reason for that. Children do not have the capacity to make fully informed decisions. They need an adult to assist them and guide them. Allowing young girls to make medical decisions without ANYONE’S input is absolutely terrifying.
From a legal standpoint, it’s also terrifying that we would make it that much easier for our children to engage in sexual activity, and especially risky sexual activity, without our knowledge or consent. Almost every state in the nation has laws concerning sexual activity with and among minors. If your minor child is sexually active and violating state law without your knowledge, you may can still held accountable for this and charged with neglect.
Plan B One-Step has been demonstrated to become less and less effective the more it’s used. I seriously doubt a young teen will notice that. An adult would notice if a teen had used it 3 times in 5 months and would begin counseling efforts to improve the quality of birth control or other behavioral changes. If a young teen experiences serious side effects, but has declined to inform her parents or doctor that she took this pill, how likely is it she will reach out for help for these problems?
It is bizarre to me that in some states we do not allow teens to purchase spray paint or cough medicine, but we will allow them to purchase this high-dose oral contraceptive without consulting even ONE SINGLE ADULT?
Proponents argue that age restrictions must be lifted due to the need to take the medication within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. I would suggest that age restrictions are not the only barrier to children getting this medication. The simple fact that a girl is 14 or 15 years old also means she has limited money, limited means for transportation and limited knowledge of her options. A 14-year-old can’t just grab her credit card, hop in her car and drive to the pharmacy. She has quite a few other barriers in addition to the requirement that she consult with a doctor.
At the very least, put the drug behind the pharmacy counter. Require a consultation with the pharmacist and log the purchase. We can’t just throw our kids to the wolves. They deserve to have SOME adult care enough to oversee their medical care. If you are going to take away my right to supervise my child’s medical care, the least you can do is make sure someone else will be checking on her in my place. Someone? Anyone?
- ‘Morning after’ pill debate ignited by ruling (triblive.com)
- Questions linger after Plan B age restriction lifted (sacbee.com)
- Morning-After Pill is Not a Cure-All (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Has ‘Plan B’ Gone Too Far? (987ampradio.cbslocal.com)
- Judge: Make ‘morning-after pill’ available to all girls without prescription (vitals.nbcnews.com)
- If Plan B goes OTC common sense suffers: Our view (usatoday.com/opinion)