The Obama Administration is considering a new proposal from his Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to let anyone of any age buy the morning-after pill directly off drugstore and supermarket shelves without a prescription.
According to The Weekly Standard, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has until today to respond to a request from the Teva Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer of the morning after pill known popularly as Plan B, to make the controversial drug more readily available. If the new proposal is approved, women will no longer be required to show proof that they are at least 17 years of age in order to get it without a doctor’s prescription. Instead, it will be on store shelves right alongside other contraceptive products such as condoms and spermicides.
“Hopefully, it will be right on the shelves between the condoms and the pregnancy tests,” said Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. “We think it’s good news for women’s health and long overdue.”
Opponents disagree. The pills expose girls and women to potential risks from taking the same hormones found in prescription-only birth control pills, only at higher doses which can be dangerous. It also makes it easier for men to prey on minors and interferes with parents’ ability to monitor their children’s behavior.
Plan B has always been surrounded by controversy because it can act as an abortifacient by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.
“It’s not a drug that prevents life — it’s a drug that destroys life,” said Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group. “If we define life as beginning at fertilization or conception, then this drug can be an abortifacient.”
The industry insists that making the drug more widely available will cut back on teen pregancy rates, but this has not proven true in countries that distribute Plan B without restrictions. In England, for example, studies show that areas where Plan B was distributed freely experienced no decrease in pregnancy rates but instead saw an increase of up to 12 percent in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
“International research has consistently failed to find any evidence that emergency birth control schemes achieve a reduction in teenage conception and abortion rates,” commented Norman Wells, director of the UK’s Family Education Trust.
The question is also being raised as to what impact this proposal could have on the conscience rights of pharmacists who do not wish to carry the product.
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