By Teresa Welsh |
The morning after pill should be available on store shelves without an age limit. Everyone deserves to have ready access to a backup form of birth control and a second chance to prevent unintended pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is birth control that must be used in an emergency – when a primary method has failed or was not used. It cannot cause an abortion as it will not work if a woman is already pregnant. Emergency contraception can be effective up to three to five days after unprotected sex, but has greater efficacy the sooner it is taken. That is why time is of the essence and women need to be able to obtain it at a moment's notice.
Last month, a federal judge ordered the Food and Drug Administration to follow through with its original plan to make the most common forms of emergency contraception – Plan B One-Step and its generic version, Next Choice – available on store shelves without an age limit or point-of-sale restrictions. Instead, the FDA this week decided to allow Plan B One-Step alone to be sold to those 15 and older without a prescription, but only if they can show proof of their age to the sales clerk. The Department of Justice then appealed the judge's ruling.
An age limit affects females of all ages. The FDA's action is an improvement in that it moves Plan B from behind the pharmacy counter onto store shelves, which means women will no longer have to worry about the pharmacy being closed or encountering a judgmental pharmacist. But it still could keep Plan B out of the hands of those who do not possess identification that shows their age or who simply left their identification at home. It also means women will not have easy access to the generic and more affordable brand.
There are a number of over the counter drugs that present higher health risks than emergency contraception but nevertheless do not have an age limit. The FDA itself has found on multiple occasions that emergency contraception can be used safely and effectively at all ages. And leading medical authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree that Plan B One-Step is safe for over the counter use by anyone at risk of an unintended pregnancy.
While we all want to protect the health and safety of young girls, an age limit does nothing to further that interest. It is long past time to lift these arbitrary and unnecessary barriers to this safe, effective, and time-sensitive method of pregnancy prevention.
About Jessica Arons Director of the Women's Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress
Terry O'Neill President of the National Organization for Women
Deborah Nucatola Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Anna Higgins Director of Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity