FDA OKs ‘morning-after’ pill for 17-year-olds

The Associated Press just reported:

Seventeen-year-olds will be able to buy the “morning-after” emergency contraceptive without a doctor’s prescription, a decision that conservatives denounced as a blow to parental supervision of teens but that women’s groups said represents sound science.

Women’s groups said the FDA’s action was long overdue, since the agency’s own medical reviewers had initially recommended that the contraceptive be made available without any age restrictions.

Korman ordered the FDA to let 17-year-olds get the birth control pills. He also directed the agency to evaluate clinical data to determine whether all age restrictions should be lifted.

The FDA’s latest action does not mean that Plan B will be immediately available to 17-year-olds.The manufacturer must first submit a request.

I’m pro-choice, but my only objection is that this new freedom is available to minors. The morning after pill will help prevent teen pregnancies in that case, but I can’t get past the fact that an exception has been made for girls who haven’t yet reached adulthood. They can end a potential pregnancy, but can’t buy cigarettes, vote, gamble, and in some states, legally have sex (though that doesn’t mean much of anything). Why are minors given this new right?

“It’s a good indication that the agency will move expeditiously to ensure its policy on Plan B is based solely on science,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit.

Conservatives said politics drove the decision.

“Parents should be furious at the FDA’s complete disregard of parental rights and the safety of minors,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.

Plan B is emergency contraception that contains a high dose of birth control drugs and will not interfere with an established pregnancy. It works by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In medical terms, pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus.

If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can reduce a woman’s chances of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent.

Critics of the contraceptive say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. Recent research suggests that’s possible but not likely.

I’d much rather see a teenage girl prevent her own pregnancy than have an unwanted child or undergo the emotional stress of an abortion, but there are already so many contraceptives readily available to minors. Teenage girls can stock up on free condoms and birth control pills at Planned Parenthood as long as they don’t mind waiting in long lines and venturing around cities to find the well hidden building. Health education teachers at most public schools supply condoms even though they are told to promote abstinence. In today’s world, it’s easy to have safe sex, it’s just easier for some people to be lazy and irresponsible, too.

I’m not entirely in favor of making Plan B readily available for minors, especially since there are so many other effective birth control methods out in the world. Why encourage girls to have unprotected sex now? They can just buy the morning after pill, so why worry about wearing a condom or taking the birth control pill? This new availability will discourage girls from using condoms during sex, and STD’s will spread easier. This doesn’t take into account the bad side effects of the Plan B pill:

Temporary disruption of the menstrual cycle is also commonly experienced. If taken before ovulation, the high doses of progestogen in levonorgestrel treatments may induce progestogen withdrawal bleeding a few days after the pills are taken. One study found that about half of women who used levonorgestrel ECPs experienced bleeding within 7 days of taking the pills.

That’s healthy…Get ready for an increase in STD contraction.

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6 thoughts on “FDA OKs ‘morning-after’ pill for 17-year-olds

  1. The side effects of Plan B are reputedly so unpleasant that I very much doubt that it will be treated by teens as a replacement for condoms or “the pill”, just as it hasn’t replaced either in the 18+ population. It isn’t a casual contraceptive.

  2. You’d be surprised how often teens and college aged women use the Plan B pill. Obviously, if they’re smart, they’ll initially plan ahead and use condoms, birth control pills, etc., but there are definitely circumstances that worry girls enough to turn to Plan B even though it will greatly disrupt their cycles and give them a myriad of other health issues. It’s definitely not casual, but it’s used more often than you’d expect for a pill with such horrible side effects, but women would prefer to feel those than to get pregnant, I suppose. I’ve never used it, so I can’t attest to what it feels like, but from what I’ve heard, the Plan B pill causes so many extra problems and really messes up a woman’s menstrual cycle, and that’s not healthy.

  3. Why are minors given this new right?

    My guess would be because not doing so will result in either human beings or abortions, whereas not granting minors the right to gamble, smoke, or buy porn has no catastrophic negative consequences. So it’s really in everyone’s best interests to make contraception and emergency contraception as available to everyone as possible.

    I’d much rather see a teenage girl prevent her own pregnancy than have an unwanted child or undergo the emotional stress of an abortion, but there are already so many contraceptives readily available to minors. Teenage girls can stock up on free condoms and birth control pills at Planned Parenthood as long as they don’t mind waiting in long lines and venturing around cities to find the well hidden building. Health education teachers at most public schools supply condoms even though they are told to promote abstinence. In today’s world, it’s easy to have safe sex, it’s just easier for some people to be lazy and irresponsible, too.

    The problem is that all forms of contraception occasionally fail, some being more likely to do so than others. That’s why Plan B exists in the first place. Additionally, people — young people especially — sometimes get caught up in the heat of the moment and engage in risky sexual behavior. Or, sometimes they’re drugged and raped — a gruesome but unfortunately real situation some young women find themselves in.

    At worst, a teenager might simply not bother to use a condom, which is indeed stupid, and perhaps she will get the wrong idea about responsible sex if she can just go to Walgreens and get Plan B the next day, but that is a better outcome than allowing a teenager to become pregnant as some sort of a punishment for her irresponsibility — especially if she carries that pregnancy to term. There will always be more opportunities to educate that teenager about being sexually responsible after she’s had Plan B, but you can’t un-do having a kid.

    I have used Plan B once — when I was 17, actually — and although the instructions do warn that you might experience some stomach upset, I don’t recall having any memorable side effects. Frankly, I found the price ($30) to be more prohibitive than the side effects, and that alone was a good reason to use a different contraceptive on a regular basis.

    Incidentally, the progestogen withdrawal bleeding mentioned in that excerpt is the exact same bleeding experienced by all women using hormonal birth control (the pill, the ring, the patch, the shot) — when you get your period while using hormonal birth control, it’s not an actual period, but rather withdrawal bleeding. The original developers of the pill thought that including the placebo week, during which the woman bleeds, would be reassuring for pill users. It’s not detrimental to your health, just annoying.

  4. Just for comparison: when the pill first came out in the ’60s, the progestogen dosage in one pill was 5mg. The dosage in one Plan B pill is .75mg.

  5. There’s much to be said for heat-of-the-moment situations, and most people can understand that those instances don’t always call for the best judgment. I have no issue with the Plan B pill and I’m not against using contraceptives, but I don’t like the idea of giving this privilege to minors. Any girl can purchase condoms and get birth control (if she can pay for it, or if not, she can go to Planned Parenthood), so I do think there are enough options available for teenage minors to consider before taking the Plan B pill.

    A few friends have taken the Plan B pill, and they’ve experienced intense side effects such as nausea and discolored, inconsistent menstrual bleeding. They were confused if they were pregnant or not because their cycles were thrown off by this pill.

    The price definitely discourages girls from using Plan B, but it’s still cheaper than a child.

    I’m not one of those conservatives who believes the Plan B pill equates to abortion, so I have no issue with anyone using it. I don’t really think it should be accessible to minors, but as you say, it’s better that the girl protects herself from a possible unwanted pregnancy.

  6. There are indeed plenty of options for teens to consider before Plan B, but the thing is, Plan B exists for when those options don’t work or for whatever reason aren’t used, and those options fail just as often for teens as for everyone else — if not more so, since they’re probably less likely to know how to use them properly — which makes access to Plan B just as much of a necessity for them as for everyone else. So the only objection I can really see is that teens may be more likely to attempt to use Plan B irresponsibly and/or in a manner other than intended. The irresponsibility can only be fixed through effective sex ed (Does sex ed even mention emergency contraception? Mine sure didn’t!), and misuse is something to which many products available at drug stores are subjected — laxatives, for instance. Since the common side effects of Plan B are unpleasant but not life threatening, and since any young woman who experiences cramping and vomiting on Plan B is unlikely to choose it over inexpensive condoms as her regular contraceptive, I can’t see why teens shouldn’t have access to it.

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