Months later, I am still very concerned about the decision by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to overrule a judgment by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to expand over-the-counter availability of the morning-after contraception Plan B One Step. Anyone who is concerned about unintended pregnancy must support increased access to a range of contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception (EC).
The impact of unintended pregnancy among young women is staggering. Teen pregnancy, which is at unacceptably high levels in the United States and is higher than most other developed nations, has far-reaching consequences well into adulthood. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of old, versus about 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence. And, dropping out of high school alters a young woman’s life for decades, and perhaps even generations. Why then would we not do everything we can—use every tool at our disposal—to increase access to emergency contraception? The stakes are too high, reducing unintended pregnancy is too important.
Frankly, I’m even more concerned about President Obama’s comments in the aftermath of this controversial decision. President Obama, who was not involved in the decision supported it nevertheless saying, “…And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old, going to a drug store, should be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteries…purchase a powerful drug to stop a pregnancy.” Really? Really.
According to research, two-thirds of all teen pregnancies occur among 18–19-year-olds. Again, if we care about reducing unintended pregnancy we must increase access to emergency contraception.