‘Morning after pill’ ruling is a step forward for all women

From the soft green swirls and light purple accents on the package, you would never know the controversy surrounding Plan B One-Step, an emergency contraceptive.

Plan B, Next Choice One Dose, and other similar contraceptives are also known as morning-after pills, and girls under the age of 17 who want these drugs have always required a prescription.

This has meant that, in the past, girls under 17  having unprotected sex ccould not get emergency contraceptives without telling parents or a doctor.

Backed by President Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Health obstructed attempts to change these regulations, but U.S. District Judge Edward Korman helped women’s reproductive rights take a step forward when he ruled to make such contraceptives such as Plan B and Next Choice available without prescription to both girls and boys of any age by early May.

The drugs keep women from becoming pregnant by temporarily stopping ovulation and limiting the movement of sperm.  The pills do not abort a pregnancy or hurt a fetus because no fetus has yet formed.

“There is no serious health risk associated with use of Plan B as prescribed and intended,” wrote Korman according to the Los Angeles Times. “These emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over the counter.”

In other words, the girls taking the drug are not at risk, and the fetus is not at risk because there is no fetus.

Could someone please explain to me why it has taken 14 years — since the drug came out in 1999 — for people aged 16 and under to get over the counter access?

The drug should be easier for people of all ages to get because it could help avoid accidental pregnancies.

I would imagine there are few situations as difficult as having to explain to parents that you need an emergency contraceptive because you had unprotected sex, and no doubt some girls risked pregnancy to remain silent.

Don’t get me wrong — I am not defending having unprotected sex. But, given an already complicated situation, it seems like the obvious solution is to allow all women to choose whether or not to take a morning-after pill, especially given the minimal risk involved.

“Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Unfortunately, the fight may not be over yet.

If the U.S. Department of Justice overturns Korman’s ruling, the prescription requirement for those under 17 will remain in effect.  A spokeswoman for this department told the Los Angeles Times that the government is “reviewing the appellate options and expects to act promptly.”

Associate Professor of Political Science Maria Rosales agreed that many are unhappy with Korman’s ruling.

“Protests against the change seem likely,” wrote Rosales in an email. “Some pharmacists have already been refusing to give emergency contraception to people who were of age under the previous ruling.

“(However,) allowing people who might get pregnant against their will a greater chance to avoid that pregnancy is a good outcome, in my opinion.”

Keeping emergency contraceptives legal for people of any age is safe and smart.  If the government repeals Korman’s decision, stand up and make your voice heard.