Pediatricians say emergency contraception should be available to women of all ages

Just days after OB/GYNs called for the pill to be available over-the-counter, pediatricians are recommending that emergency contraception be more readily accessible for teens.

Last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius refused to allow EC to be available without a prescription for women under 17. In doing so, she acted contrary to the guidance of the Federal Drug Administration and, you know, science. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is backing up the FDA and advising doctors to prescribe Plan B in advance until the policy changes.

Via ThinkProgress:

The pediatricians’ group points out that requiring young women to contact a physician for a prescription only after they realize they need emergency contraception presents a significant hurdle for those adolescents, potentially preventing them from being able to take emergency contraception in a timely manner. Providing adolescents with advance prescriptions for Plan B, on the other hand, ensures that they will have contraception readily available to them if they need it…

Previous research has shown that women can face barriers to obtaining Plan B even when they follow the current protocol for their age group. Some pharmacists incorrectly inform women over 17 that they can’t access emergency contraception over the counter, and some doctors refuse to provide women under 17 with a prescription for the medication. AAP’s research suggests that some doctors’ refusal to prescribe the morning after pill “may be related to the physician’s beliefs about whether it is OK for teenagers to have sex.” But the group noted that pediatricians “have a duty to inform their patients about relevant, legally available treatment options,” even those “to which they object.”

As we’ve written before, teens–even those who are over 17–often have a hard time accessing EC when they need it. The AAP reminds us that studies have shown that a prewritten prescription for EC doesn’t encourage young people to engage in risky sexual behavior (or to have sex at all) but does result in more effective use of the pill.

Reuters has a good round-up of the relevant history and research here, and make sure to sign the Reproductive Health Technology Project’s petition to HHS to “revisit the evidence and remove the restrictions on emergency contraception.”

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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  • Stella

    Having studied the self-interested and anti-evidence stuff that the APA and especially the ACOG do in the childbirth sphere, when they do stuff like this I have to wonder what is going on….I am all for women of all ages being empowered in their sexual lives, but again, I have known too many people who had issues with these sorts of drugs (the pill and Plan B, which I understand is its cousin). If you are not comfortable enough/have a good enough relationship with a provider to get the drug in the first place in a timely manner, how the heck are you going to deal with the very unpleasant and sometimes fatal or life changing side effects? Even adult friends who had no really bad effects from these drugs have described very harrowing nights of headaches, nausea, etc that caused them to need medical advice and assistance. No teenager should need to go through that alone. If there is a problem with our drug delivery system in this country, let’s fix that, not just let young kids take serious meds without back-up care if something goes wrong. The latter approach just seems like one that maximizes drug company profits while also leaving our awful system of poor customer service by medical providers untouched. This is a dynamic that also exists in the birth world much to the harm of women.

    Again, I will just echo my comment on the OTC BCP thread and say that these are serious drugs and powerful interests want us ladies to eat them up regardless of the harm to our bodies. You do not have to be anti-sex or anti-female empowerment to be against their wholesale availability OTC.

    • Alison Cummins


      Do you realize that you’re claiming that you understand the evidence better than the folks who actually conducted the research? What is your background in medical research and the creation of clinical guidelines?

      I’ve taken Plan B. It caused nausea. I was warned in advance that would happen. No biggie.

      Please list the fatal and life-changing side effects of Plan B and their frequencies. Then compare them with the fatal and life-changing side-effects of pregnancy and childbirth and their frequencies.

      Please compare the awfulness of taking Plan B without having a trusted doctor you can see for free at an hour’s notice with the awfulness of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy without access to prenatal care.

      Pediatricians care about kids. Most of them are parents. If they think the best option is for teens to have access to OTC Plan B, they are probably right.