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Statement from Dr. Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Vice President of External Medical Affairs, Regarding HHS Decision on Plan B One Step Availability Restriction
Planned Parenthood is extremely disappointed in the 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 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; as well as additional studies showing that adolescents with childbearing potential, without the intervention of a healthcare provider, can determine when Plan B One Step should be used and how it should be taken. Unfortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services did not take the FDA’s recommendation.
Currently, emergency contraception must be kept behind pharmacy counters. Lifting the availability restriction and allowing Plan B One Step onto store shelves would remove barriers that women of all ages currently face in purchasing Plan B One Step, and help all women be better able to prevent unintended pregnancy. For instance, women of all ages would not be limited to purchasing emergency contraception from pharmacies, which typically have limited hours.
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. By allowing women under 17 over-the-counter access to emergency contraception, we 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 teens understand that emergency contraception is not intended for regular use and that the rates of unprotected sex do not increase when they have easier access to emergency birth control. [i]
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.
Unfortunately, until the availability restriction is lifted and access made more available, women of all ages will still encounter significant barriers in accessing the full range of contraceptive options available to them.
[i] (Obstetrics & Gynecology, Sept. 2005, “The Effect of Increased Access to Emergency Contraception Among Young Adolescents”).