Should the morning-after pill be sold OTC

Feb. 20, 2004, midnight | By Betsy Costillo | 16 years, 11 months ago

Betsy Costilo says YES: Plan B gives girls a chance

In the U.S., one million adolescent girls become pregnant each year, according to Planned Parenthood. Over 80 percent of those pregnancies are unintended, and nearly half of them result in abortion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power to halve the number of unwanted pregnancies by approving the over-the-counter sale of Postinor-2 nationwide, a decision that would make the contraceptive immediately available and ensure user privacy when purchasing the medication.

Plan B is a safe form of emergency contraception that has been used by 2.4 million women since it was approved on a prescription-only basis in 1999, according to The Washington Post. FDA studies show that the contraceptive has a 95 percent success rate in preventing pregnancy if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex. If Plan B became easily accessible, thousands more adolescent girls would have an alternative to abortion or motherhood.

Currently, to obtain emergency contraceptives, a woman must either go to Planned Parenthood, a clinic or a physician. Even if she is able to contact her doctor and get a prescription within 24 hours of rape, contraceptive failure or unprotected sex, she must find a pharmacy that offers Plan B. Many pharmacies don't stock the emergency contraceptive because they oppose the medication on moral grounds or claim there is a lack of demand. If Plan B were available without a prescription, the demand for and thus the supply of the medication would increase.

When obtaining a prescription from a physician, a woman must pay for her appointment and to fill her prescription. Without insurance, this costs anywhere from $58 to $150, according to Anne MacDonald of Four Corners Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Unless a teenage girl has her own insurance, her parents must be informed that their policy is paying for the medication. Plan B would cost only $30 without a prescription, according to its manufacturer, Barr Laboratories.

Over-the-counter sales would also ensure privacy. A Blair senior who obtained Plan B twice from Planned Parenthood found it difficult to share required personal information. "They ask you questions like, ‘When did you last have your period?' and ‘When was the last time you had sex?'" she says. "It can be very awkward."
Opponents of the plan to market over-the-counter Postinor-2 claim that easy access to the medication would encourage unprotected sex. However, according to Deborah Chilcoat of Planned Parenthood, studies indicate that the morning-after pill has shown "no evidence of increased sexual activity."

Decisions regarding sex and birth control are intensely private. Dropping the prescription requirement for Plan B could prevent thousands of unwanted pregnancies annually and offer would-be teenage mothers a viable second chance.

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