This post originally appeared on The Human Factor, a health blog written and edited by Senior Fellow Liz Seegert, MA.
What if it was your daughter?
Suppose your 16 year-old daughter was sexually active with her boyfriend and his condom broke? Would you want her to be able to buy the Plan B emergency contraceptive right away, or should she first have to wait for a doctor’s visit to get a prescription – by which time it might be too late to use it anyway.
Currently, no one under 17 can buy the Plan B pill from a pharmacist without a prescription; young women must show proof of age. The FDA seemed about to lift that restriction and allow it to be sold openly, put on a drugstore shelf just like condoms are. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ surprisingly overruled the agency, when she put the brakes on the FDA’s plan. Her rationale: girls younger than 17 are not be cognitively developed enough to make an informed decision without additional input from a doctor.
It’s too bad Sectretary Sebellius seems to have so little faith in 15 or 16 year olds. Who by the way, I find are much more knowledgeable and savvy about sex at that age than many of their parents were. These are kids that grew up with the Internet. They don’t necessarily wait to ask “the question” to their parents. They Google it instead.
Taking this option out from behind the pharmacist’s counter would have been a good move in helping to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I’m not advocating that young teens have sex; but let’s face reality: many do. Many are also unprepared for potential consequences. Plan B isn’t about “just say no instead.” It’s about “It happened. Now what do I do?” For now, the pill remains behind the counter, and the restrictions remain intact.
If I had a teen daughter who was intimate with her boyfriend, I would much rather know that she has ready, easy access to emergency birth control than not take advantage of this option at all because of age restrictions.