Access to Emergency Contraception is important for all women of childbearing potential.
Full over-the-counter status would make emergency contraception available to many more women who need it.
By the time a young woman gets a prescription, it may be too late. Plan B must be taken within three days (72 hours) of unprotected sex. And, the sooner it's taken, the better it works. Plan B is most effective when taken within 24 hours.
Teens may be sexually active for some time before they see a doctor and gain access to a prescription for contraceptives like the birth control pill. Emergency contraception importantly offers a backup plan if a condom breaks.
It is an unfortunate reality that young women are more likely to be raped. Most do not pursue care at all, and many women do not pursue medical care within the 72 hour time frame when Plan B would be effective. Over-the-counter sale of Plan B would be an easy and accessible option for these women.
The studies submitted to the FDA, as published, have shown that women as young as 12 could understand how to safely use the single-pill product.
Contrary to the fears of some, studies show that women and teens with access to emergency contraception do not use it as a regular contraceptive. Further, teens who have access to emergency contraception do not have sex more than teens who do not.
As always, restrictions such as these most burden young women who are the most vulnerable among us because of additional barriers to access to health care resources: young women living in poverty, living with disabilities, and living with unsupportive parents. They would face a particular challenge accessing a physician and a prescription within the time frame that Plan B would be useful.
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services and a representative of President Obama's Administration, has sided with radical right politics to reject the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) decision to remove an age restriction on emergency contraception. Plan B One-Step, the emergency contraceptive "morning-after pill", will remain hidden behind pharmacy counters, and girls under age 17 will still need a prescription.
The experts on the FDA advisory committee resoundingly supported all available scientific and medical evidence, declaring Plan B One-Step to be safe and effective for all women, over-the-counter, regardless of age. In a statement released with the decision, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, said "there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of childbearing potential."
Today, Plan B One-Step is available without prescription to women ages 17 and above. It is still held behind the counter in pharmacies due to the age restriction, and women are required to produce either proof of age or a doctor's prescription to access the drug.
Secretary Sebelius, don't let young women down! Let the FDA decision stand to make Plan B One-Step available over-the-counter.