FDA Considers Putting The Morning-After Pill On Drugstore Shelves

Conservatives losing their marbles to start in five … four … three … two … one: the FDA has until tomorrow to decide whether the morning-after pill Plan B will be available on drugstore shelves (as opposed to behind the counter) without a prescription for anyone of any age. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, Plan B is almost 90 percent effective in preventing a pregnancy. The sooner Plan B is taken after unprotected sex, the more effective it is.

Currently, Plan B is available to any anyone ages 17-years-old or older without a prescription. Anyone under age 16 must produce a doctor’s prescription. But it was not always so: the FDA, the Religious Right, and people who prefer “science” to “16 & Pregnant” have been duking this one out for years.  You can read the FDA’s whole sordid history regarding Plan B — in particular the gruesome “George W. Bush Years” — here

I believe Plan B should be available to anyone who wants it, without having to ask a pharmacist for a prescription. Especially if you have one of those lovely ideologue pharmacists who say it is against their “conscience” to dispense the morning-after pill to women and refuse to do so!  Ideally, Plan B would be sold on shelves next to other family planning products, like condoms. Plan B is not something women should take all the time as their primary method of birth control. (Ahem, Cat Marnell.) But it should be available to any woman who wants it and needs it for the one-off (or two-off, or three-off) occasions when the condom breaks, or she is a victim of rape, or whatever else has her in a panic over an unintended pregnancy. 

But anti-abortion activists, especially from the Religious Right, will kick up a fuss if the FDA gives their approval. Plan B prevents an egg from being fertilized by sperm, which is why the sooner a woman takes it after sex, the more effective it is. But the antis have always mislabeled Plan B as an “abortofacient” because it could prevent a fertilized egg from implantation. Antis also say Plan B functions like the abortion pill (RU-486), despite the fact they are two distinctly different products. The reality is that Plan B is an extremely high dose of the same hormones found in birth control pills — which is why everyone I know who has taken it has ended up queasy, crampy, and sometimes barfing for a day or two (but not pregnant!).

And of course, there’s the “OMG, girls having sex!” factor. Opponents of making Plan B available on drug store shelves say it leaves young women and girls open to exploitation by older men. Skeezy guys could just give a teen girl Plan B rather than taking her to a doctor. Supposedly this is a good reason why Plan B should not be easily accessible for all adult women. (Hey, they wouldn’t be anti-abortion protestors if they weren’t all “OH NOES WHAT ABOUT OUR DAUGHTERS?!”)

Feminist blogger Jessica Valenti says reproductive justice advocates she’s spoken with think the FDA is “going to approve it.” I trust her sources are true … but I don’t want to get my hopes up only to see them dashed and crushed by the Religious Right yet again! 

[Washington Post]


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