People have been buzzing since the latest FDA decision to allow 17 year old teenagers access to Plan B, also known as the morning after pill. Some are thrilled, some are appalled.
And though this fundamental divide is nothing new, it is important to take reason into account when considering the benefits and drawbacks of a decision like this and not just discard it with theology.
FACT: After steadily declining between 1991-2004, teen birth rates increased 5-percent from 2005-2007, the most recent data on record. Source
FACT: The states with the highest rate of teen birth in 2005 are also those with the strictest standards for abortions and contraceptive use (Texas is highest, followed by New Mexico, Mississippi, Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina, Nevada and Alabama).
Of these, 85.7-percent of births for women aged 15 to 19 were to unmarried females. Source
FACT: The increase in teen births is directly proportional to an increase in teen pregnancy rates. Between 2005 and 2007, use of contraceptives decreased and sexual activity increased. Source
FACT: Plan B, the morning after pill, only works up to 72 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse and works best if taken within 24 hours.
In an ideal world, there would be no necessity for a morning after pill. And it certainly wouldn’t be an issue whether or not to allow access to teenagers. However, this idealism is not the reality.
There should be restrictions, such as not allowing people to get Plan B over-the-counter, but rather speaking to a pharmacist first. But it is not realistic to expect that a teenager, who may not even have a gynecologist or regular primary care physician, be able to obtain a prescription for Plan B in time for it to be effective.
It is futile to argue against making this pill as widely available as possible based on moral grounds because the women who are in need of it have already had sex. “But they shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place” is irrelevant because it has happened, and at this point we need to be willing to offer women as many options as possible.
Women should not be held hostage to the beliefs of some people when men who do not want to participate in an unplanned pregnancy can disregard all responsibility. I’ll support restricted access to Plan B when a male accountability pill is developed. Until then, give the power to the ladies.
For more information on the campaign to decrease teen pregnancy and birth, visit The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy