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Plan B’s Balancing Act

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The FDA’s recent ruling allowing the Plan B emergency contraceptive to be sold over the counter to anyone over age 15 naturally has both critics” target=”_blank”>recent ruling allowing the Plan B emergency contraceptive to be sold over the counter to anyone over age 15 naturally has both critics plan band supporters buzzing.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards called the ruling an “important step forward to expand access to emergency contraception” that will help more women prevent unintended pregnancies. She also called for lifting “all unnecessary restrictions to emergency contraception, consistent with the prevailing science and medicine.”

Earlier this month, a federal judge struck down age restrictions on Plan B and ordered that it must be made available to all women without a prescription. Judge Edward Korman accused the Obama administration of playing politics after HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overrode a previous FDA decision to make the pill more widely available to more young women. Until now, only women age 17 and older could obtain Plan B without a prescription.

This FDA decision is separate from Korman’s ruling, and is based on an application by the manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, citing additional evidence supporting lowering the age of non-prescription availability.

Anne Higgins, of the conservative Family Research Council, said the health of young girls is now at risk. “Making Plan B available for girls under the age of 17 without a prescription flies in the face of medical information and sound judgment. I am very troubled that the court has not fully taken into account the concerns expressed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and many public health advocates that there is not enough data on the health effects of Plan B on young girls.”

However FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamberg, MD, who supported the agency’s earlier decision to lift all age restrictions, said “the data reviewed by the agency demonstrated that women 15 years of age and older were able to understand how Plan B One-Step works, how to use it properly, and that it does not prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease.”

Teva is working on packaging that alerts cashiers to require proof of age from consumers. Meanwhile, there’s no word yet on whether the Obama Administration will appeal Judge Korman’s order to lift all age restrictions. They have until May 5 to do so. Otherwise the ruling stands.

Not surprisingly, reaction from parents was mixed. What do you think? Post a comment below to share your thoughts.

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