Having a ‘Plan B’ is a good strategy—what you will do if your first plan doesn’t work out. Plan B is the name of a find-my-phone app that can help me find my Android if I misplace it. Plan B is also the brand name of an emergency contraception or morning-after drug for use after unprotected intercourse.
My question today is: Do you agree with a new decision by a federal judge that will make Plan B available over the counter to anyone—even children in elementary school? Is this a good idea?
Plan B, and other brands using the same active ingredient (a synthetic hormone called levonorgestrel), have been on the market for some time. What’s new is the decision last week by Edward R. Korman, a senior judge in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. Prior to his ruling, Plan B was available to women over the counter—but girls under the age of 17 could get it only with a prescription. The ruling does away with the age restriction, and allows the morning-after pill to be sold to anyone without a prescription, like aspirin. (Read the entire decision here.)
The judge instructed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conform to his ruling within thirty days. It effectively overturns the order by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to set age restrictions. Obama endorsed her decision. As quoted in the judge’s memorandum, the president said, “the reason [Secretary Sebelius] made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drug store, should be able—alongside bubble gum or batteries—be able to buy a medication that, potentially, if not properly used, could end up have an adverse effect.”
The judge concluded that the “adverse effect” argument was simply “an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their right to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.” The Secretary’s decision was “political motivated” to avoid raising the ire of religious groups in an election year. It has little scientific basis, the judge opined, citing the opinions of distinguished scientists.
Opponents worry that lifting the age restriction will promote promiscuity and be a threat to public health. Supporter hail the decision as a victory for reproductive rights and the realities of the adolescent experience.
Do you think lifting age restrictions is a good idea?
Do you worry about negative consequences?
Do you see this as a victory for women’s rights?