Judge Strikes Down Age Limit On Morning-After Pill

Fathers, lock up your daughters: the government is going to be forcing slutty slut pills down their throats!

That will be the Fox News version of events. But here in Reasonable, Common Sense-land, the story is different: a federal judge — a man! — has struck down the age limit on the morning-after pill, meaning sexually active young women age 16 and younger will be able to access it. Ruling on a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Judge Edward Korman decided that the government’s refusal to lift the age restriction is “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” and said the FDA’s feet-dragging has been an “obstruction.” He ordered the FDA to lift the age restriction within 30 days.

Reproductive rights activists pushed the FDA for years to make Plan B accessible to all and in 2011, they finally did. But it never happened: Health and Human Services Secretary swiftly overruled the FDA recommendation to make Plan B accessible to everyone, citing alleged concern about its safety for young teens — but in reality, kowtowing to a game of keep-conservatives-happy hardball.

The morning-after pill is a high dose of hormones — the same hormones in regular birth control pills — which prevent a woman from getting pregnant. Plan B needs to be taken up to five days after intercourse to prevent ovulation (the egg from being released from the fallopian tubes) as well as thickening cervical mucous, preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg if it does come down the fallopian tubes. The sooner it is taken after unprotected sex, the more effective the morning-after pill will be; if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex, it is 90 percent effective. (Here’s a cute little video about how it works, if you want a more specific explanation.)

The morning-after pill has been available for women ages 17 and up. Young women ages 16 and younger needed to get a prescription from a doctor, which, of course, uses up the precious time in the small window the pill can be used. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in November that pediatricians should write advance prescriptions for teen girls so if they need it, they will have it already.

Despite this very obvious method of reducing teen pregnancy, conservatives have long balked at the morning-after pill — in particular, lying that it is the “abortion pill” (which is actually RU-486) or that it causes abortions. Even Mitt Romney thinks he can get away with calling Plan B “abortive pills.” Another popular and unsupported claim is that older men will sexually abuse younger teens and give them the morning-after pill so they don’t get pregnant.  Huh. I’ve always thought that if an older man is raping your 13-year-old, trying to keep her from accessing Plan B should not be your biggest worry.

Both the FDA and the HHS have declined to comment on Judge Korman’s ruling; it is still possible for the government to file an appeal.

[New York Times]
[Reproductive Health Reality Check]

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