Box of Plan B pills
Health Policy, In the News , , , , ,

Can a 16-year-old understand the risks of Plan B?

The Food and Drug Administration just announced plans to not allow over-the-counter sales of the “morning-after” pill, Plan B.

The move surprised physicians and many groups of advocates for women’s health, who have said the pill would prevent abortions and greatly reduce unplanned pregnancies.

In a statement on the HHS website, the Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sibelius, said, “It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.”  It appears her rationale for denying OTC status to Plan B is that a young woman might not understand just how the pill works or what its effect would be on her body.

Like any drug, the morning-after pill has risks–of course, so do many over-the-counter medications people often take without thinking, such as Tylenol and its risks to the kidneys, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, which cause intestinal inflammation and bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.

So are the side effects and possible health risks of Plan B worse than the risks of pregnancy to a teenage girl who may be afraid to tell her parents she’s had sex?  Maybe you have to have been a teenage girl once to understand that, but of course one would assume Secretary Sibelius was once a teenager too.