FDA lowers age on Plan B

April 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There has been a major policy shift involving reproductive choice. The Food and Drug Administration announced the morning-after pill will now be made available without a prescription to 17-year-olds. Even younger teens could eventually have over-the-counter access to the emergency contraception.

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The fact that 17-year-olds will soon be allowed to buy the so-called morning-after pill doesn't sit well with many parents.

"Eighteen probably, but 17 is just way too early, and plus, I want to have my consent," says Pinole resident Dean Farrales.

The FDA decided to make the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B, available to 17-year-olds without a doctor's prescription after a judge's ruling. It's yet another reversal of the policies of the Bush administration, which set the age limit at 18 when the drug went over-the-counter three years ago.

"It's minors who don't have unfettered access to physician care. And if you're on a college campus, or you made a mistake, you want to be able to walk into your pharmacy without going to your doctor first because timeliness is really the critical element," said Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California.

Plan B can reduce a woman's chance of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent, but it must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex for it to work. The pills contain a high dose of birth control drugs that prevent either ovulation, fertilization or implantation.

"In so many areas of life, the parents have to sign a permit for various things, and even as I recall, for my daughters to get their ears pierced. And here for something so momentous, they don't need the parents," says Professor Raymond Dennehy of the University of San Francisco Department of Philosophy.

San Francisco dad Erik Korolev doesn't see it that way.

"You know 18, 17, I think it's the responsibility for the person to take care of themselves," said Korolev.

The morning-after pill could eventually be made available without any age restrictions. The judge opened the door, telling the FDA to review its entire policy.

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