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Women's Health Advocates Oppose Plan B Decision

December 9, 2011

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has overruled the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration to make Plan B – the so-called "morning-after pill" – available without a prescription to all females of reproductive age.

Women's health advocates in Connecticut are concerned about the ramifications. Susan Yolen, vice president for public policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, says the pill prevents pregnancy if taken within a few days after unprotected sex.

"We are extremely disappointed, because it seems to be a decision that is not as grounded in science as the original Food and Drug Administration ruling was, which was in favor of lifting this availability restriction."

The original FDA ruling was supported by the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics as being entirely safe, but opponents believe it is inappropriate to let sexually-active young girls get the pill without a prescription.

Some also call Plan B an "abortion pill," although Yolen says that is not the case.

"Plan B chemically acts more like the birth control pill than it does the pill we call the abortion pill."

She points out that one ramification of this ruling is that women under age 17 who can't get access to the pill might end up having abortions if they become pregnant. If a woman is already pregnant, she adds, taking the pill will not hurt the fetus.

Yolen says this decision gives Planned Parenthood pause as it waits for another decision from HHS about the scope of coverage for contraception in insurance plans.

"...and whether or not Catholic institutions, or other religious institutions – like universities, hospitals, nursing homes and schools – will be able to opt out of covering their employees for contraception."

She says women's health advocates are keeping up the pressure on the Obama administration, hoping for a ruling they will see as positive.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT