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It's Deadline Day for Plan B: What's a Pharmacist to Do?

The FDA requires young women to show cashiers ID to buy Plan B - Federal Judge ordered it available to all by today.   Courtesy of: Women's Capital Corp.
The FDA requires young women to show cashiers ID to buy Plan B - Federal Judge ordered it available to all by today. Courtesy of: Women's Capital Corp.
May 6, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Today is the day all age restrictions on the "Plan B" emergency contraceptives were supposed to be lifted. A federal judge ordered that the pills should be available to all women of all ages over the counter, just like aspirin, as of today. But now Florida pharmacists are unsure what they should do.

Late last week, the Obama administration filed an appeal of the court order and asked for a stay of the May 6 deadline. The day before that, the FDA lowered the age at which Plan B would be available without prescription from 17 to 15. Some saw the FDA action as a compromise. But Paula Gianino with Planned Parenthood is disappointed.

"What's disappointing is that this safe and effective drug continues to be used as a political football," she charged.

Some anti-abortion groups support the appeal because they claimed the pill could endanger the lives of young girls. According to Gianino, however, there is no scientific evidence to support age restrictions on the drug.

The Guttmacher Institute reports that the number of sexually-active 12-year-olds is only about 1 percent, but nearly 9 percent of young women have had sex by age 14 and more than 10,000 14-year-olds got pregnant in 2008. Gianino declared that excluding them from access to Plan B doesn't make sense.

"This drug, evidence-based science has said, could reduce unintended pregnancy by 50 percent," she said. "And that will reduce the need for abortion. Isn't that evidence enough?"

The FDA says the drug is safe and prevents pregnancy when taken within 72 hours but does no harm to a pregnant woman or her fetus.

Oppponents don't want the drug to be available to teenagers without input from parents and doctors. The Guttmacher Institute pointed out that a ten-year decline in teen pregnancies and abortions was the result of improved use of contraceptives among teens.

Meantime, the FDA is requiring young women to show cashiers ID to buy Plan B. But a federal judge is ordering it to be made available to women of all ages starting today.

More information is at goo.gl/tnbCS and at goo.gl/KuYND.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - FL