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Planned Parenthood Applauds Court Decision Expanding Access to Emergency Contraception
“Lifting the age restrictions on over-the-counter emergency contraception is a significant and long-overdue step forward for women’s health that will benefit women of all ages. When a woman fears she might become pregnant after her contraceptive has failed or she has had unprotected sex, she needs fast access to emergency contraception, not delays at the pharmacy counter. Lifting these restrictions will allow emergency contraception to be stocked on store shelves, making it more accessible to everyone.
“The age restrictions on over-the-counter emergency contraception are simply not supported by the science. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration recommended doing away with the age restrictions following a thorough review of long-standing scientific research that prove emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy when regular contraception has failed or unprotected sex has occurred. And these studies also show that teens are as likely as adults to use emergency contraception correctly. This ruling is good policy, good science, and good sense. We encourage the FDA to comply with the ruling and make emergency contraception available as quickly as possible without restrictions.”
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 and reduce the need for abortion.
Current Age Restrictions:
Emergency contraception is currently available to women over-the-counter (without a prescription) and for teens under 17 with a prescription. These restrictions lifted today created confusion and barriers for everyone, including adults needing access to emergency contraception. No prescription is needed for certain emergency contraceptive methods for people 17 and older, but the lifted age restrictions meant all methods had to be kept behind pharmacy counters. This created a delay in access when pharmacy windows are closed or when pharmacists provide misinformation about who can purchase emergency contraception without a prescription.
• 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.
• 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 teens understand that emergency contraception is not intended for ongoing, regular use and that the rates of unprotected sex do not increase when they have easier access to emergency birth control.
• Nearly half of all pregnancies that occur in the U.S. each year are unintended. The average age for first time sex is 17, and roughly 750,000 pregnancies will occur among 15- to 19-year-olds each year.
About Emergency Contraception:
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. EC is a safe, effective form of birth control that works by postponing ovulation, which prevents sperm from coming in contact with and fertilizing an egg. Emergency contraception does not end a pregnancy. In fact, every major medical institution, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), states unequivocally that Plan B and other types of emergency contraception are forms of birth control, and they cannot induce an abortion.
The FDA approved Plan B in 1999. It was the first progestin-only medication specifically designed for emergency contraceptive use, and was cleared for over-the-counter sales in 2006 for users 17 or older. However, doctors have been prescribing emergency birth control since the 1960s, and studies published as early as 1974 have shown emergency contraception to be safe and effective.