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Plan B for 'Plan B'

"Plan B for 'Plan B'" Continued...

Issue: "Iraq: The image war," May 22, 2004

Making Plan B as easy to get as aspirin would also, Ms. Wright said, open young girls to exploitation by older men, ushering in a new era of statutory rape-without the mess and expense of clinic-based abortions.

Although it is primarily a contraceptive, Plan B itself causes abortion in some cases. The medication works by preventing ovulation and fertilization, but also by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. That, by definition, is an abortion, a fact that helped to rally many pro-life groups against OTC distribution of the drug. But the issue extends beyond Plan B's abortifacient effects, said U.S. Rep. David Weldon (R-Fla.), an M.D. "This isn't a pro-life/

pro-choice issue or a conservative/

liberal issue. This is a public-health issue."

Data coming out of Great Britain show exactly that: Expanding contraceptive services and providing the morning-after pill free to teenagers have sent the STD rate among adolescents skyrocketing. And both teen sexual activity and STDs have risen fastest in areas where the government cheers loudest for emergency contraception.

Morning-after pills are available in 101 countries, and 33 do not require a prescription. In the United States, five states offer one of two morning-after pills-Plan B or Preven, also manufactured by Barr-in a limited number of pharmacies. Specially trained pharmacists in Alaska, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington can dispense emergency contraception without a doctor's prescription, and, in California at least, without parental permission.

Critics say that sort of easy access, expanded nationwide, would only encourage more irresponsible sexual behavior, especially among young teens. Dr. Weldon notes that the U.S. public-health establishment has spent more than a decade preaching condoms as the silver bullet against STDs. "Condoms were fairly ineffective, but they were better than nothing," he said. "When you bring Plan B into the milieu, it encourages teens to have unprotected sex knowing they can just take Plan B in the morning."

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