A Good Plan for Abortion Opponents

Thursday, August 24, 2006

While my pro-life (or "anti-choice.....to have an abortion") friends are frowning upon the decision to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B birth control, I see this as an opportunity to make a stronger case against the abortion option as a "necessity." There's good news in this:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Women may buy the morning-after pill without a prescription - but only with proof they're 18 or older, federal health officials ruled Thursday, capping a contentious three-year effort to ease access to the emergency contraceptive.

Girls 17 and younger still will need a doctor's note to buy the pills, called Plan B, the Food and Drug Administration told manufacturer Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The compromise decision is a partial victory for women's advocacy and medical groups that say eliminating sales restrictions could cut in half the nation's 3 million annual unplanned pregnancies. Opponents have argued that wider access could increase promiscuity.

The pills are a concentrated dose of the same drug found in many regular birth-control pills. When a woman takes the pills within 72 hours of unprotected sex, she can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. If she already is pregnant, the pills have no effect.

The earlier it's taken, the more effective Plan B is. But it can be hard to find a doctor to write a prescription in time, especially on weekends and holidays. Hence the push to allow nonprescription sales.

The two-pill pack of Plan B costs from $25 to $40. A Barr spokeswoman estimated that pharmacists dispense about 1.5 million packs a year.

Plan B's maker was disappointed that FDA imposed the age restriction and pledged to continue working the agency to try to eliminate it.

But higher-ranking officials rejected that decision, citing concern about young teens' use of the pills without a doctor's oversight. Barr reapplied, asking that women 16 and older be allowed to buy Plan B without a prescription. Then, last August, the FDA postponed a final decision indefinitely, saying the agency needed to determine how to enforce those age restrictions.

But opponent Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said Plan B's wider availability could give women a false sense of security, since it isn't as effective as regular birth control. Wright also worries that adult men who have sex with minor girls could force the pills upon them.

"Statutory rape is a very serious problem. This decision is going to allow statutory rapists to rely on this drug to cover up their abuse," Wright said.
The purpose of Plan B is simple: to stop unwanted pregnancies - the kind that results in abortions. Conservatives fear the availability of this drug will promote promiscuity and give women a false sense of security, but I don't think that's for us to determine. Condoms have the same consequences but we're at a point where we know they're necessary.

Adult women will have to be trusted to use Plan B responsibly, and at its price range I don't see many girls substituting it every time they have sex for traditional forms of birth control. It's to be used when traditional birth control fails.

Critics are right to say Plan B should be restricted to adults or minors with permission. At no time should it be easier for underage girls to buy contraception than cigarettes or lottery tickets.

And because underage girls must have permission, the argument that rapists will force Plan B upon them is moot. What is a problem however is the ability for rapists to drive underage girls across state lines to get abortions unbeknownst to their parents (recently addressed by the Senate).

In a perfect world unwanted pregnancies would not exist. Needless to say we don't live in one, and something like Plan B can help reduce the number of pregnancies that end up in the trashcan.