The news last week that the Obama administration overruled a Food and Drug Administration recommendation to allow full access to Plan B One-Step triggered a political uproar. It also raises questions, maybe less clear-cut ones, for parents.
Here are the basics: Plan B One-Step is an emergency contraception pill consisting of progestin and works mainly by preventing an egg from being fertilized.
It has been available as an over-the-counter pill to those who can prove they are 17 or older and pay $50. (In reality, the identification obstacle is likely a big one for many young, scared girls, even if they are of age.)
It has also been available to minors if a doctor prescribes it or if someone else — a parent, a friend or boyfriend older than 17 — buys it for them.
The FDA decided to remove those obstacles. It decided Plan B was safe for all girls to use and should be available to them at any age and without prescription.
But last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overturned the FDA’s decision. She said there was not enough evidence proving it was safe for younger children.
For many, the decision smacked of political opportunism from a liberal president who wants to appear less so as the next election approaches.
Women’s groups and health advocates are furious for that and what looks like a rejection of sound science. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, supports the drug’s availability to adolescents.
Many of these arguments are broad-based, as they should be when it comes to a federal decision. But the decision also begs a question for individual families. Do we want our own children to have unfettered access to emergency contraception?
For some parents of deeply rooted beliefs — religious or political — the answer to that question is easy. To many others, it’s a tough one.
It’s wrapped up in other questions: Do we know if our kids are or might be sexually active? Do we talk to them about sex and the consequences? (A survey of parents of 10 to 18 year olds conducted by Planned Parenthood earlier this fall found 60 percent have talked with their kids about birth control.)
And, what’s our own “Plan B” if our daughter becomes pregnant or if our son has sex that results in a pregnancy?
Politics aside (if that’s possible), how do you feel about emergency contraception for your children? Would you rather they be able to buy it freely? Or do you feel better knowing they’ll face obstacles when trying to buy the drug?