Planned Parenthood is extremely disappointed in the federal decision not to lift the availability restriction for over-the-counter access to emergency contraception, also known as Plan B One Step. Lifting the availability restriction would have made Plan B One Step more accessible to women of all ages. The Food and Drug Administration supported lifting the ban. Unfortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services did not take the FDA’s recommendation.
Currently, emergency contraception must be kept behind pharmacy counters. Women age 17 and over must ask to purchase the product and show proof of age. Women under age 17 can only access emergency contraception with a prescription.
The Food and Drug Administration was in favor of lifting the availability restriction, following a thorough review of long-standing scientific findings that prove emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy when regular contraception has failed or unprotected sex has occurred. The review also included studies showing that adolescents with childbearing potential can determine when Plan B One Step should be used and how it should be taken, without the intervention of a healthcare provider.
Nearly half of all pregnancies that occur in the U.S. each year are unintended. As a trusted provider of women’s health care, Planned Parenthood is committed to reducing this number, particularly among teens. Allowing women under 17 over-the-counter access to emergency contraception could help reduce teen pregnancy and abortion rates. Unfortunately, this decision makes reducing these rates even harder.
Multiple studies have shown that teens are as likely as adults to use emergency contraception correctly and that both groups report little, if any, difficulty using the method. Research also has shown that the rates of unprotected sex do not increase with easier access to emergency birth control [i], and that teens understand that emergency contraception is not intended for regular use.
Planned Parenthood encourages and supports parents in their efforts to protect their teens’ sexual health and to guide young people toward responsible decisions, including delaying sex until they are prepared. It is crucial that all young people have access to the full range of contraceptives in order to prevent unintended pregnancies.
Emergency Contraception Facts
• Emergency contraception works by preventing pregnancy. It must be taken within five days of unprotected sex, and it will not work if a woman is already pregnant. Plan B One Step and Next Choice work best the sooner they are taken. (Available only by prescription, ella maintains equal effectiveness over the course of all five days.)
• Emergency contraceptives are safe, effective forms of birth control that work by postponing ovulation, which prevents sperm from coming in contact with and fertilizing an egg.
• Consistent use of reliable birth control is the best way to prevent an unintended pregnancy, but unprotected sex does occur, and sometimes condoms fail. Emergency contraception provides a safe, effective way to prevent pregnancy.
• Emergency contraception is not the abortion pill. In fact, every major medical institution, including the FDA, states unequivocally that Plan B One Step and other types of emergency contraception are forms of birth control, and they cannot induce an abortion.
• Studies have shown that emergency contraception is safe for use by women of all ages and that teens have equally as successful health outcomes as adult women when using it.
(Obstetrics & Gynecology, Sept. 2005, “The Effect of Increased Access to Emergency Contraception Among Young Adolescents”).
What is PPDE?
The mission of PPDE is to ensure the right of all individuals to access the appropriate information and the services necessary to make and act on personal decisions related to their own reproduction, sexuality and health. Planned Parenthood provides family planning, gynecological services, abortion, cancer screening, STD testing and treatment, health education, and more. The agency serves all three counties, has operated in Delaware for 80 years, and serves 10,000 clients a year. For further information, check out www.ppdel.org.