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MO Reproductive Health Advocates: Teens Caught Up in Politics

December 12, 2011

ST. LOUIS - Reproductive-health advocates are scratching their heads over the secretary of Health and Human Services' veto of the Food and Drug Administration's decision to lift age restrictions on "Plan B," an emergency contraception pill.

It's puzzling, the advocates say, because the Obama administration has pushed for more science-based decisions in federal policymaking.

What's even more puzzling, says The Rev. Rebecca Turner, executive director of Faith Aloud, is that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius always has supported access and information to women's reproductive health, yet her comments after the veto were inaccurate.

"She suggested that if they went ahead with this lack of age restriction, that this drug would then just be out there next to the candy and gum - and that's not true. It's still a behind-the-counter drug that women have to go to a pharmacist and request."

Opponents of emergency contraception claim it promotes abortion and encourages teen sexual activity.

Plan B emergency contraception, Turner says, is a high-dose birth-control pill taken within a few days of unprotected sex, and does not disrupt an existing pregnancy, if there is one.

"We've seen over the past couple of years that people are beginning to understand what emergency contraception is, and how it works, and how very important it is for women who are sexually active to be able to get this form of contraception very quickly, if their first method of birth control fails. "

Access to emergency contraception is also important for rape victims, Turner says, especially since some hospital emergency rooms refuse to dispense it, claiming moral grounds.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO