Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday overruled a recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the “morning after pill” Plan B One Step should not be sold without a prescription – and without age restrictions. It’s the first time Health and Human Services has overruled a FDA opinion, countering that the drug’s safety had not been tested in girls as young as 11. As it now stands, only women 17 years and older will be able to access emergency contraception without a prescription.
“Trouble is, this decision effectively puts up barricades even to women 17 and older,” said Dena Davis, Lehigh University’s Presidential Endowed Chair in Health and an expert in biomedical ethics.
“In order to make sure the younger girls don’t get it, the drug is dispensed only upon proof of age. In order to purchase emergency contraception a woman must show a pharmacy clerk (often male) some identification with her name and probably her address on it also,” Davis said. “If my recent experience buying beer is any guide, even women well beyond their teen years will routinely be asked to show proof of age.”
“So think about this,” Davis said, “How would condom sales be affected if men and women had to show identification to a sales clerk before making off with that precious package? With U.S. rates of unwanted pregnancy among the highest in the West, this is a shortsighted and unfortunate decision.”