Doctors to White House: Free Plan B!
Age restriction on safe emergency contraceptive hurts our patients
New York, NY: Tracey Wilkinson, MD, MPH—expert on adolescents’ access to emergency contraception and Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health—comments on the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s refusal to lift the 17-and-older age restriction on the emergency contraceptive Plan B One Step® and the harm that the age barrier causes women and their partners trying to avoid unintended pregnancy:
“As a physician and a researcher, I implore the Obama administration to lift the age limit on Plan B. My patients and my colleagues’ patients across the country deserve to have this incredibly safe medication available to them on drug stores’ open shelves.
“Instead, Plan B is stuck behind the pharmacy counter, leaving anyone who needs it at the mercy of the pharmacy’s limited hours. These delays hurt women, whether they are 18 or 36. Emergency contraception has a time limit—the sooner a woman takes it after intercourse, the more likely it will prevent pregnancy. No one should have to wait for Plan B.
“I am a pediatrician, and I have seen the age limit on Plan B interfere with my patients’ ability to take action after their regular contraceptive fails them. I think of Sarah and her boyfriend Jason who were high school juniors and didn’t drive. One evening, their condom broke. They headed to the one drug store within walking distance, only to find the pharmacy counter was closed for the night. When they returned the next day, they weren’t able to obtain the medication because neither of them had government-issued photo ID to prove their age. By the time they came to see me for a prescription, the window of time when Plan B is most effective had passed. Four weeks later, Sarah discovered she was pregnant.
“There is no way to know if taking emergency contraception when Sarah and Jason first went to the drug store would have prevented Sarah’s unplanned pregnancy, but they should have had a chance to use this safe and effective back-up method for their birth control.”
* Patients’ names have been changed.
DR. WILKINSON AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT
Dr. Wilkinson is the lead author of “Access to Emergency Contraception for Adolescents” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2012) and “Pharmacy Communication to Adolescents and Their Physicians Regarding Access to Emergency Contraception” in the journal Pediatrics (2012).
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