A federal judge ruled Friday that the morning-after pill known as Plan B must be made available over the counter for women of any age.
The decision comes after lengthy legal battles over who should have access to the pill and at what age. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had initially decided to allow the emergency pill to be available for young teens. But HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA in late 2011, and the agency limited availability without a prescription to women 17 and older.
As for today’s ruling, the Justice Department did not say whether it would appeal.
“This ruling turns the doctor-patient relationship into a cashier-patient relationship placing women’s health in the hands of corporations instead of caring physicians. We are calling on the Justice Department to appeal this ruling,” said Jon Russell, National Coordinator for Medical Students for Life.
Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Counsel Catherine Glenn Foster “Parents and trained physicians are the ones responsible for the care of underage patients. The court’s decision wrongly allows pharmacies to distribute a life-ending drug over the counter to young girls without their parents’ or doctor’s knowledge or consent. Numerous studies have shown that these abortion-inducing drugs do not reduce the teen pregnancy rate and may even increase STDs, and the long-term effect these drugs will have on the health of young girls is still unknown.”
Doctor’s from across the country are speaking out on the issue….
“Contraception management is an opportunity for physicians to counsel patients in regard to their at-risk behavior and test for sexually transmitted diseases. A concern for the teen is immature decision making which puts their compliance and proper use of this medication in question. While no one argues the need to decrease teen pregnancy rates, making it easier to get emergency contraception means teens are less likely to receive counsel, guidance and screening while engaging in high risk behaviors,” said Dr. Anita Showalter, DO OB-GYN, Yakima, WA.
The decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to make the pill, commonly referred to as the morning after pill, available for all ages.
Dr. John Bruckalski, OB/GYN, Fairfax, VA, commented, “When it comes to reproductive technology, politics trumps science as the legal system, and/or the medical community rushes to make the latest and greatest pill, plastic or device in the name of preventing unwanted pregnancies, knowingly waiting for the side effects to show themselves. Real people suffer in this rush to market. Historically, it has been that way with oral contraceptives, IVF protocols, and abortion procedures. The studies so far on the ‘morning after pills’ that are given ‘preventively’ by a healthcare provider have not decreased the pregnancy or abortion rates, and may have increased the rate of developing chlamydia.
“With partner violence at epidemic levels, the possibility for abuse of this powerful steroid in an at-risk population of our younger women is profound. This is another example of how medicine is moving away from the doctor-patient interaction because of political expediency. Abusive partner relationships that will affect our children throughout their life, increasing pelvic pain and infertility via sexually transmitted diseases will increase because of this legal maneuver.
“Where is our profession heading when we place powerful hormones ‘over the counter’ for girls and ban similar steroid hormones for our boys who play sports? We have to be better than this. Health is based on relationships found in community.”
The decision means that unless the FDA appeals and is granted a stay, by this time next month a teenager 16 or under could walk into a local pharmacy and buy the pill off the shelf.
“When a teenager is having sex, pregnancy is not the only risk. Another risk is sexually transmitted diseases. And if a teenage girl is exposed to Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) through sex, they are at risk for developing cervical cancer later in life.
They are also at risk of the severe emotional distress of a breakup after having done something very intimate with another person. It is also possible that the teenager is having sex because they are a victim of rape. The only one of these risks that is addressed by any form of contraceptive pill is pregnancy. Emergency contraception covers up very risky behavior. Making it available to anyone may cause us to miss the opportunity for parents to step in and help protect these young girls from the other risks associated with sex. It is irresponsible not to care for the whole person. Our young people deserve better than for us to help them hide risky behavior,” said Mary Catharine Maxian, MD Houston, TX.