Planned Parenthood of Indiana joined scores of other reproductive rights advocacy groups in applauding the decision last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finally approve over-the-counter status for Plan B emergency contraception for women 18 and older. However, many women’s rights advocates expressed dismay for the scientifically baseless restrictions denying teen-agers access to this safe method of emergency birth control.
"While we are glad the FDA finally ended its foot-dragging on this issue,” Planned Parenthood of Indiana President and CEO Betty Cockrum said in a statement, “Planned Parenthood is troubled by the scientifically baseless restriction imposed on teen-agers. In Indiana, 10 teen-agers under age 16 become pregnant every day. Anything that makes it harder for teen-agers to avoid unintended pregnancy is bad for public health, for Indiana's graduation rates and for preventing child abuse and neglect."
Plan B, or emergency contraception, lowers the risk of pregnancy when started within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse. Experts estimate that wide access to emergency contraception could prevent up to 1.5 million unintended pregnancies — and 800,000 abortions — a year. The sooner it is administered after unprotected intercourse, the better it works, making timely access critically important. Studies show that women do not use emergency contraception as a regular method of birth control and that over-the-counter access to emergency contraception does not increase or encourage sexual activity among teens.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana has seen steady demand for emergency birth control, with an average annual increase of 21 percent in the past five years. The agency has sold emergency contraception to its patients in various forms since 1998 when the FDA approved the prescription-based sale of one brand. In 2001, Planned Parenthood of Indiana began providing EC Online, or access via its Web site, www.ppin.org, though women were still required to purchase the actual prescription at a pharmacy or one of Planned Parenthood's Indiana health centers."