Denying Teens Access to Morning-After Pill Is Bad for All Women

SebeliusToday brings women's health news that is as infuriating as it is confusing: The U.S. Department Health and Human Services blocked the morning-after pill, Plan B, from being made available over-the-counter to all women, regardless of age, overriding a U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recommendation that age restrictions on Plan B's availability be lifted. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the data was "not sufficient" to support lifting the restriction that currently allows women over the age of 17 to buy the emergency contraceptive over the counter but prohibits women under the age of 17 from doing so without a prescription from their doctor.

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This move came despite the fact that the FDA's panel of medical experts determined there was absolutely no health reason to prevent young women from having equal access to Plan B and recommended that the ban be lifted.

Honestly, without a medical reason to support the restriction, it really just seems unfair to young women to leave it in place. And considering that the United States has a staggeringly high rate of teen pregnancy, it seems shortsighted and foolish as well. Look, whether the rest of us want to face it or not, some (many) teens have sex. Sometimes they have sex and use protection, and that protection fails them. Sometimes they have sex and (either for lack of planning or access or other reasons) don't use contraception. Sometimes they have sex against their better judgment. Sometimes they have it against their will. 

If there is a safe, effective, medically approved way to prevent a momentary lapse from changing the course of these young women's lives (and young men's lives, too, come to think of it), a way that is legal and readily available to women over the age of 17, why should those young women be denied equal access to it? Why should they be forced to jump through a hoop that may prevent them from getting the help they need?

The HHS decision isn't just bad for teenage women; it's bad for all women. These young women are our sisters, friends, and neighbors. And like it or not, they are our daughters. We need to support their access to medication and their health.

Of course, many of us would prefer that teens (at least the teens in our lives) not have sex, and certainly not unprotected, at such a young age. But denying teens access to Plan B if and when they need it will not undo the fact that they have had sex, and it likely won't prevent them from having it. It will just force them to live with the consequences. And do we really want teens to have babies (or abortions) as a punishment for having sex? That doesn't seem desirable no matter where you stand on the larger issues.

Do you agree with the HHS decision to block the over-the-counter sale of Plan B to women under 17?

 

Image via US Mission Geneva/Flickr

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