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.
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.”