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FDA's New 'Plan' for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

PHOTO: "Plan B One-Step" is the only emergency contraceptive included in the FDA's decision to make it available over-the-counter and to women 15 and older. Photo courtesy Teva Women's Health.
PHOTO: "Plan B One-Step" is the only emergency contraceptive included in the FDA's decision to make it available over-the-counter and to women 15 and older. Photo courtesy Teva Women's Health.
May 3, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The timing might not have been intentional, but May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month – and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started it off with a major announcement.

The agency will allow a form of women's emergency contraception, Plan B One-Step, to be sold over the counter, and to females as young as 15.

The FDA says Plan B is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy, and that there should be no need for a doctor's prescription.

Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, says the advantage of the new policy is speed. The sooner the medication is taken after sexual intercourse, the more effective it is.

"We do know that when it is needed, it is needed right away,” she says. “And so, this move by the FDA assures that more women will have ready access to it.”

A federal judge had ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception available without an age limit, and the Justice Department is challenging that ruling – but the FDA says this week's decision is independent of that court case.

Plan B works by preventing pregnancy, not terminating it, so Arkansas Right to Life says it considers Plan B a contraceptive and doesn't take a position on birth control. However, some concerns have been raised about reducing the age limit for over-the-counter purchase of an emergency contraceptive.

June, who has three daughters, says she would hope all young people would seek the advice of a parent or a trusted adult – but she knows it isn't always possible.

"And if they can't come talk to us, whatever the situation might be, we want to be sure that they can get the medication that they need that will keep them safe," says June. "And this is a safe and effective medication."

It's important to note that emergency contraception has been available to women younger than 15, but only with a doctor's prescription, and that will still be the case.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month is a reminder that, while teen birth rates have declined across the country, Arkansas ranks fifth in the nation for pregnancies among 15-to-19-year-olds. June says it will take more than increased access to Plan B to change that.

"This is a very stubborn difficulty in Arkansas," she says. "We can do a lot better with access and education. It really takes a village to tackle this problem."

In Arkansas, 82 out of 1,000 young women become pregnant as teens.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - AR