Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated its opinion that the United States’ pediatricians should explain emergency contraception to all of their adolescent patients, as well as make available advance prescriptions for females under 17 years old.
Currently, girls under 17 are not able to purchase the morning-after pill, which undoubtedly has led to innumerable pregnancies for teenagers who otherwise would never have conceived. This not only causes immense difficulties for the mother, whose body and emotional state may not be ready for a child, but it also leads to the spending of millions of dollars of tax money. So wouldn’t it make sense to help those girls obtain the necessary preventative measures?
According to Reuters, the AAP is calling upon doctors to make emergency contraception forms such as Plan B and Plan B One-Step available to their patients, an announcement that many women’s health groups are praising. Janet Crepps, for example, is senior legal counsel for the Center of Reproductive Rights, says, “We are very pleased to see this recommendation because it represents progress towards our ultimate goal which is that women of all ages should have unrestricted access to emergency contraception.”
Many people are upset–because of course they are!–that young women may be able to get ahold of the morning-after pill more easily than they’d like, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who called the decision “tragic.” Michael O’Dea, founder and executive director of the non-profit Christus Medicus Foundation, said, ”Since when should the physicians take over the responsibility of what parents should be doing?” Well, considering how much teenagers just love talking to their parents about sex, I kind of doubt that everybody will be able to simply rely on their parents for help if they desperately needed it.
Many girls and women require the morning-after pill after rape in order to prevent a pregnancy from an already-terrifying event. If a young girl’s rape falls into the all-too-common category of “Not Reported,” how will she find emergency contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy? Or, in the case of incest, how could she possibly get her parents to simply get it for her without serious consequences?
It may worry some people that this will make it more common for people to use emergency contraception as an everyday type of birth control. And of course, I don’t believe that the morning-after pill should be used as such. That would be ridiculous and irresponsible. But if pediatricians explain exactly when, why and how emergency contraception should be used, as well as making sure they are able to acquire proper birth control such as pills, condoms, the patch, Nuva-Ring and so on, then the risk of young girls using the morning-after pill improperly will decrease immensely.
As of now, it’s extremely difficult to get the morning-after pill after dark, even for adults. This is why I always keep one or two packs–just in case a housemate or friend needs one the same day I do–because Planned Parenthood isn’t always open. And if you’re a teenager who doesnt have any 18+ friends willing to get her some Plan B, suddenly you’re out of options and the waiting game begins. Allowing females to have a prior prescription will prevent a middle man requisite, as well as the stress and/or pregnancy that could’ve been avoided.
We know millions of teenagers will have sex. We know this. We can’t afford to be naive enough to believe that blissful ignorance channeled by way of abstinence-only education will be totally effective.
I think this is an excellent step in pediatrics and women’s health. Birth control and even emergency contraception should be as easy to get your hands on as condoms–after all, it’s a human right to be able to control your own reproductive system.