After stalling for years, the FDA has finally approved Plan B, a form of emergency contraception, for over-the-counter sales. That means that a woman will be able to step up to the drugstore counter and purchase it without a prescription and without a pharmacist’s blessing, if she can prove that she’s at least 18 years old. Younger women will continue to need a prescription.
The policy to restrict the sales to adults in drugstores seems arbitrary, especially in the face of all the unplanned teen pregnancies. It seems to me that any policy that would make the medication conveniently available, even in gas stations and convenience markets to anyone who thinks she might need it would have been more prudent. The only downside to taking it “incorrectly” seems to be decreased efficacy, and the easier it is to get, the better it might be utilized.
There are arguments that making emergency contraception more available will increase promiscuity and unsafe sex. But research shows that more than half of the pregnancies in the US are unplanned, which means there’s a lot of unintentional unprotected intercourse going on anyway. If EC provides an option to reduce unintended pregnancies after the act, it makes sense to me to have it readily available when it is needed.
Emergency contraception, when used properly, decreases the chance of pregnancy from 8% to 1%, which is a significant reduction. But, it must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, and, the sooner the better. It does not protect against sexually transmitted disease, and, it should not be used for routine contraception.
When it comes to how Plan B’s availability, it seems that politics prevailed, but at least approval is here in some form.