This month, the political fight over emergency contraception has intensified, as the Obama administration continues to resist making the morning after pill available to women of all ages over the counter. After a federal judge ordered the FDA to remove all age restrictions on emergency contraception, the administration disagreed, maintaining that girls under 15 years old should still be required be obtain a prescription to purchase the contraceptive method — a position that baffles medical experts.
At the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ recent annual meeting, MedPage Today asked women’s health experts what they thought of the ongoing fight over Plan B. Multiple medical experts went on record to say that they don’t understand why emergency contraception has been such a contentious issue, and they don’t support restricting it for younger teens:
— Owen Montgomery, MD: “I would much rather have a 13- to 14-year-old girl who needs emergency contraception have access to it than come to my office with an unwanted pregnancy… In our clinics in the university, we see lots and lots of teenagers. And many of these young ladies have no access to good parental role models, and they need access to emergency contraception when they need access. And they can’t wait for permission from a judge, or someone else of authority.”
— Alison Edelman, MD, MPH, of Oregon Health & Science University: “Emergency contraception is a really, really important part of our toolkit for contraception. It helps women who have emergencies, i.e., they aren’t using contraception at the time of sexual activity or they had a misstep with their contraception, like a condom break or slip.”
— Barbara S. Levy, MD, ACOG’s vice president for health policy: “There’s failure of other methods. There are rapes. There are other things that occur. Women need to be able to access emergency contraception and have the knowledge and understanding of how to use it, so we can prevent unwanted pregnancies and unintended pregnancies that happen, because life happens.”
— Laurie J. McKenzie, MD, of both the University of Texas and Baylor College of Medicine: “I find it very interesting that there are these concessions that are being made in terms of age limitation … There are more deaths associated with Tylenol overdose than there are with oral contraceptive overdoses or potential overdose with Plan B. There have never, to my knowledge, been any overdoses with hormonal contraception.”
— Eve Espey, MD, MPH, of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque: “Plan B should be over the counter… All emergency contraceptives should be over the counter with no age restrictions.”
Indeed, there’s no scientific basis for imposing an age limit on Plan B. Multiple medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have expressed support for making emergency contraception easily accessible to women of all ages.