The needs of teens in search for emergency contraception were ignored this week when Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius rejected the FDA’s proposition to widen the availability of Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive.
The denial of this proposal was a political move that did not consider the needs of today’s youth. As the Secretary of HHS, Sebelius has an obligation to utilize the most recent research, and make a decision that is most beneficial to people in need, which she failed to do. Teenagers make mistakes, and sometimes contraception fails (or wasn’t used to begin with). That does not mean they should have to suffer permanent consequences (e.g. pregnancy, or the trauma of getting an abortion).
As FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg stated after Sebelius’ decision, “There is adequate and reasonable, well-supported and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential."
Medically, there is no reason an age limit should have been placed on the drug in the first place. For women of a reproductive age, it has essentially the same side affects. Additionally, a study done by Teva in 2009 shows that 90% of girls ages 11-17 coming to clinics in search of emergency contraception took the drug “safely and correctly without professional guidance.” People ages 17 and up are not the only ones whose contraception fails, and girls younger than that deserve easy access to emergency contraception. What HHS seems to not understand is that teens will not stop having sex simply because they don’t have access to Plan B, nor will the availability of Plan B encourage sex among teens anymore than the availability of condoms. Plan B would not be the reason teens have sex, but it would be an option if something went wrong.
Sebelius denied the widened availability of Plan B on the grounds that not all women of reproductive age should be allowed to buy the drug, as some girls as young as 11 are capable of reproduction. As previously noted, she has no scientific basis for this opinion, and if 11-year-old girls are need of emergency contraception that signals a much bigger problem. The truth of the matter is that this was a political tactic by the Obama administration to garner votes from moderates in 2012, who want proof that he is not as liberal as conservatives make him out to be. This was a politically driven move and will only prolong the fight for widened availability of emergency contraception.
As a teenage girl who has witnessed the effects of failed contraception among her peers, this decision is unacceptable and will only serve to hurt those in need. The Obama administration should reevaluate their priorities, and strongly reconsider the affects that this decision will have on youth in the United States.
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