Opinion Brief

Should Plan B be as easy to get as aspirin?

Health advocates demand that women under 17 be allowed to buy emergency contraception without a prescription. But the feds swat down their request

On Wednesday, the feds decided not to scrap regulations that require young teens to obtain a prescription before purchasing the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill. Currently, the contraceptive is available without a prescription to women 17 and older. Younger teens require a doctor's note. The drug's manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and many women's health advocates have been arguing that Plan B should be available in drugstore aisles, alongside condoms and the like, and be as easy to purchase as aspirin. Did the feds make the right call?

Yes. Changing the rules would be dangerous: "When anybody can buy an emergency contraceptive like this over the counter, you open the door for all sorts of abuse," Concerned Women of America's Janice Crouse tells The Washington Post. Mom and dad need to be involved to keep kids safe from sexual abuse. "Parents have to sign a permission slip for their children to go on a class trip or get their ears pierced," and it only makes sense that their permission would be required for a morning-after pill, too.
"FDA weighs putting Plan B morning-after pill on drugstore shelves"

C'mon. The abuse argument is ludicrous: The idea "that making this safe, reliable contraception available over-the-counter will somehow lead more men to have sex with underage girls" is "offensive" and ridiculous, say Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) at The Huffington Post. "Predators' horrific crimes do not depend upon the availability of contraception." Opponents are simply spinning up stories so they can place "political ideology over women's health." 
"Plan B: Debunking the myths and improving women's health care"

And Plan B is largely harmless: Arguably, Plan B is "safer than aspirin," says Meredith Melnick at TIME. "Overdoses of over-the-counter painkillers... can lead to serious liver, kidney, or gastrointestinal problems." By contrast, "it is impossible to overdose on Plan B." Plus, at least one recent study suggested that ready access to emergency contraception "didn't reduce pill or condom use," and thus did not "increase the likelihood of unprotected sex."
"FDA may remove age restrictions from morning-after pill Plan B"

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