Now females of all ages can ‘resort to Plan B’ and other emergency contraceptives

On April 5, Judge Edward R. Korman declared that the Food and Drug Administration must make the morning-after pill accessible for females of all ages, prescription or not.

This ruling overturned a decision made in 2011, in which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius required that girls under age 17 have a prescription to acquire the drug.

“The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10- or 11-year-old going to a drug store should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect,” said President Barack Obama to reporters in regard to this decision in 2011.

Plan B One-Step is a morning-after pill   composed of 1.5 milligrams of the progestin levonorgestrel. This synthetic hormone has been used in birth control pills for over 35 years. The drug’s website lists the side effects as mild cases of “changes in your period, nausea, lower abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, dizziness and breast tenderness.”

“It’s been proven to be very effective and very safe,” Director of Development for Planned Parenthood Health Systems Elizabeth Freeze told The Guilfordian. “It’s safer than aspirin, even. The side effects are basically nonexistent. We, Planned Parenthood, are just very excited for this step forward for teen health. It’s wonderful for folks to stand up to make sure that teens and young women have access to the preventative care they need.”

But, some question what message is sent to young girls when they are denied access to contraceptives.

“I feel that the Obama administration did a disservice by constructing this as a potential problem of encouraging teen sex,” said Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Julie Winterich. “It’s a disservice to women’s health and the conditions to which people might need to buy emergency contraception. I feel like the discourse about emergency contraception — over the counter or not — hasn’t been clear and unbiased in terms of what it is and its safety and its access.”

While some are relieved for the girls, others house concerns about their potential to take more risks with the new freedom to buy the emergency contraceptive.

“It’s easily accessible, and girls can just store a bunch in their house,” said Early College junior Rebecca Dou to The Guilfordian. “It’s readily available, and you can just purchase it without any embarrassment, without telling anybody. Before, there was some shame in having to get a prescription for this drug, but now there’s nothing to help prevent you from making potentially harmful decisions.”

However, the pill still has a limited accessibility in terms of monetary cost.  At most pharmacies, the price ranges from $20 to $70.

“Missing in all this discourse about emergency contraception is nonconsensual sex,” said Winterich.  “If a girl’s been a victim of nonconsensual sex, and there’s a large myriad of circumstances in which this can happen, that can bring shame.

“There’s been a drug that been approved that’s safe, it’s effective,” continued Winterich. “Why don’t we at least make that component easier for them?”

From now on, purchase of the morning-after pill will be hassle-free for girls under age 17, and the reason behind it — whether birth control did not work or was not used, if the intercourse was consensual or nonconsensual — will remain the knowledge of the consumer and the consumer alone.

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