The emergency contraceptive pill known as Plan B may be round, but given the politics that have been played with it over the years, it ought to be shaped like a football.
The latest installments in the decade-long battle to move this useful product out from behind pharmacy counters and allow consumers of all ages to buy it have come only lately, with a federal court judge ruling early last month that Plan B should be fully decontrolled.
New York District Court Judge Edward R. Korman also accused Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of “a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence” for overruling a Food and Drug Administration recommendation that the pill was safe enough to make available without a prescription, to anyone, regardless of age. In 2011, she limited sales to women 17 or older, and ordered that the pill still be kept behind the pharmacy counter, making it more difficult, as well as awkward, to obtain.
On Tuesday, the FDA went almost as far as Korman wanted, almost as far as it should have: It directed pharmacies to display the single-pill version of Plan B out in the open, with their other birth-control merchandise, and to sell it to anyone at least 15 years of age. It was a reasonable compromise, albeit no less arbitrary than the original 17-year-old restriction. But it remains to be seen whether it will satisfy the judge, whose deadline for compliance is Monday.
Conservatives feel Plan B encourages kids to have sex before they’re ready to, and while we’d agree that even 17-year-olds are too young to have sex, the reality is that a good many of them do. Even worse, a good many of them don’t use contraceptives and get pregnant; for someone that age, Plan B is preferable to having an abortion or a baby.
It’s expensive enough ($30 for one dose) that it’s not going to be the “go-to” contraceptive for anyone, much less a young teenager; thus it’s not going to “encourage” kids to have sex the way a condom might. It’s for emergencies, and anyone who does have sex, planned or otherwise, can have one of those.
If it’s acceptable for a girl 15 or 16 to deal with such an emergency on her own, why not a 13- or 14-year-old? Denying that girls that young are having sex is foolish.