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It's Plan B Deadline Day: 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

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Today was the day all age restrictions on Plan B emergency contraceptives were to be lifted. A federal judge ordered that the pills were supposed to be available to all women of all ages over the counter, just like aspirin, starting today.

However, Missouri pharmacists now are unsure what to do. Late last week, the Justice Department filed an appeal of the court order and asked for a stay of the May 6 deadline. The day before that, the FDA had lowered the age at which Plan B would be available from 17 to 15 and required young women to show cashiers their ID in order to buy Plan B.

Some saw the FDA action as a compromise. Paula Gianino with Planned Parenthood, St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said she is unhappy about it.

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

Some anti-abortion groups supported the appeal, claiming the pill could endanger the lives of young girls. Gianino said there is no scientific evidence to support age restrictions on the drug.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, only about 1 percent of 12-year-old girls are sexually active, but nearly 9 percent of young women have had sex by age 14, and more than 10,000 14-year-olds became pregnant in 2008. Gianino said excluding girls this young from access to Plan B does not make sense.

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

The FDA said the drug is safe, prevents pregnancy when taken within 72 hours after intercourse, and does no harm to a pregnant woman or her fetus. Opponents do not want the drug to be available to teens without input from their parents and doctors.

The Guttmacher Institute has pointed out that the 10-year decline in teen pregnancies and abortions is the result of improved use of contraceptives among teens.

More information is available from the Guttmacher Institute at http://www.guttmacher.org. The pregnancy rate report is available at http://goo.gl/KuYND.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO