Quick Takes: The Morning-After Pill

 

Age Restriction Removal Is Unsafe and Inappropriate for Young Girls

 “I’m pregnant” — these two words are probably the most feared among parents, especially if it’s coming from their 15-year-old daughter. Approximately a week ago, pregnant teens would have had to involve their parents and consult a physician in order to safely obtain contraceptives. Now, girls under the age of 17 can easily access the morning-after pills that aid in preventing unplanned pregnancies, which is inappropriate, unsafe and potentially encourages young girls to be sexually active.

According to the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, a majority of U.S. states require parental consent and/or licensed personnel to administer medication. If adolescents are not even allowed to take Tylenol under the guidance of their teachers, then it would be strange to believe that rescinding age restrictions on obtaining the morning-after pill is a wise decision. Adolescent girls know to take medicine from their parents when they are sick, but they probably don’t know how to safely take a morning-after pill. Dr. Anne Williams reported on the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics that use of this pill could jeopardize teens’ fertilities in their later years due to perturbation of their hormones. More widespread availability of this pill could also potentially increase sexual activity for teen girls, which could lead to hazards such as heightened rates of STDs and misuse of the drug.

Addressing teen pregnancy is an urgent issue; there are better ways to handle it, such as sexual education and parental aid rather than giving teen girls the impression that they can take care of it on their own.

— Shannon Kang
Contributing Writer

Increased Access Does Little to Address Underage Sexual Activity

Easing age restrictions on Plan B is a step in the right direction toward decreasing unwanted teenage pregnancies, but it doesn’t change teenagers’ views on sex. Political pundits are focusing too much on resulting teenage pregnancies rather than assessing the actions and attitudes of the teenage girls who cause them. Dr. Susan Wood, a professor of health policy at George Washington University, put it well when she said, “This is not a magic bullet. This is just one more tool in the toolbox.” 

The overarching goal of both liberals and conservatives is to prevent sex at a young age. However, this new law only stops the bleeding at the surface, putting a proverbial bandage on a problem that stems from much deeper: This new rule won’t spark drastic changes in the way many teenage girls already view sex. According to a federal study of teenage girls, 49 percent of teenage girls in 1995 stated that they were virgins, compared to 57 percent in 2010. The minimal decrease in sexual activity says more about the unchanged conventions of society than of anything contraceptives can do.

Given these trends of teen sex, erasing the age restrictions on contraception isn’t the end-all answer. Instead of banking on the assumption that the knowledge of morning-after pills is inherent in teenage girls, the solution is to place an even higher emphasis on educating both sexes on the dangers of unprotected sex. 

This may seem like dated or rudimentary advice to some, but simply throwing pills at the problem won’t change what’s going on behind the scenes.

 — Andy Liu
Staff Writer

Overturn Is a Triumph for Science and Women’s Health Over Politics

The order by federal judge Edward Korman to remove the age restriction on over-the-counter morning-after pills is a win both for science and for women’s rights. The 2011 order by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius required that all girls under the age of 17 get prescriptions for contraceptives like Plan B. This mandate, as Korman put it, was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”

It is clear that Sebelius’ decision was politically motivated, attempting to assuage conservative and religious groups and avoid the political backlash that might impede the Obama administration’s political goals. The 2011 order wrongfully contradicted conclusions made by scientists at important national institutions like the Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association, which have supported unrestricted access to contraception for years.

A 2006 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that over one-tenth of American women get pregnant by the age of 17. Timely access to emergency contraceptives is critical for teens, as they must be administered within 72 hours after sexual intercourse in order to be effective. When teens are forced to get a prescription and find a pharmacy, this delays speedy access to medication. This is an unwarranted liability, since most emergency contraceptives have been deemed safe by the FDA for women of all childbearing ages, while pregnancy and abortion carry greater health risks. 

Political tightroping should not take precedence over science, and the overturning of this restriction is long overdue.

— Nico Hemsley
Staff Writer

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