The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that Plan B, an emergency contraceptive pill, will be available for sale over the counter for women age 18 and older.
“In considering the difficulty of enforcing an age-based restriction on the availability of this oral hormonal contraceptive, I have concluded that 18 (rather than 17) is the more appropriate cutoff point to best promote and protect the public health,” said Andrew Von Eschenbach, acting commissioner of the FDA, in a statement.
Though it’s not clear when, the “morning-after pill” will be sold in pharmacies and clinics, with proof of ID, similar to nicotine replacement therapy products and cold-cough medications, according to Von Eschenbach.
Anti-abortion groups around the state contend that the results are disheartening, saying that they fear the pill will be abused. Pro-abortion groups, however, contend that it will lead to a significant decrease in the number of unintended pregnancies.
Despite each group’s claims, 51 percent of pregnancies in America are unplanned, according to Deb Morris, director of health education at Hartshorn Health Service.
“From a preventative standpoint, I think it’s a good move,” she said of the FDA’s choice.
“We applaud the FDA for recognizing that more timely access to emergency contraception is a critical issue in preventing unintentional pregnancy,” said Dr. Nancy Roberson Jasper, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia- Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. “With (over the counter) availability, women 18 and older now have more timely access to safe and effective emergency contraceptive following the failure of other contraceptives or an incident of unprotected sex.”
However, opponents of the drug fear that its availability could allow sexual abuse to continue undetected. What if a father was molesting his daughter and giving her the morning after pill, Lolita Hanks wondered.
“Who’s gonna know?” she asked.
Hanks, a board member for the anti-abortion group Colorado Right to Life and a nurse practitioner, was concerned about the chances for its abuse.
But others disagreed, saying that having it available to women, especially those who have been sexually abused, is important.
“If a sexual assault happens on a weekend.it can get to be where it’s too late,” said Chris Linder, director of CSU’s Office of Women’s Programs and Studies.
Most advocates of the pill said having the pill – which must be taken within 72 hours to be effective – available over the weekends would let women have access sooner than waiting to go to their doctor.
“Just like all women, college-aged women need access to the emergency contraceptive over the weekend,” said Daniel Kessler, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Sharon Hindman, executive director of Alpha Center, which offers counseling and testing for women who are pregnant or have had abortions, said while she is not surprised by the FDA’s decision, she is wary about it.
“I would hate to see people begin to use it as a form of birth control,” she said.
Others had similar fears of abuse.
“People are going to think it can be used as a contraceptive,” said Audra Rissin, a stylist at Blow It Salon, located in the Lory Student Center. She said she is afraid people would begin to rely on it the same way people do with condoms.
But for some, having access to the morning-after pill was life changing.
Lauren Sletta, a senior music therapy major, said that after a one-night stand when she was 19, she bought Plan B.
“The condom broke and I freaked out,” she said. “I knew I would never see him again and I never wanted to think about having a kid with him.”
The pill will remain available via prescription for women age 17 and younger.
Plan B is made from a synthetic hormone similar to what is found in birth control, according to Barr Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Plan B. There are two pills in each package, one that must be taken within three days of intercourse, the other 12 hours later. Plan B will not work if the woman is already pregnant, according to the pharmaceutical company.
News editor Sara Crocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.