Judge orders morning after pill be available without prescription


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT McKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE


Posted on April 5, 2013 at 6:08 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 5 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- It is the little pill that is in the center of a big controversy -- Levonorgestrel; better known as the morning after pill.

"What it does is it delays ovulation. So it's a regular hormone that you have in your body," explained Renaissance Women's Group OBGYN Kimberly Loar, M.D. "If somebody had unprotected intercourse and they were about to ovulate that day or the next day, if we delay that ovulation, the egg won't get fertilized."

If a fertilized egg has already attached to the uterus and a woman is pregnant, the pill does nothing.

"The morning after pill will not cause a miscarriage, will not cause an abortion," Loar said. "It's very safe. We really don't see any side effects. If anything they can maybe see a little GI upset, but we rarely see that even."

Currently, the pill is sold over the counter as "Plan B" for about $75 and as "Next Choice" for about $45 to women 17 and older, or to someone under 17 who has a prescription.

Friday, that changed. A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York ruled that the FDA must make the emergency contraceptive available to all women within 30 days.

"I think it's a good thing. I think that we have a lot of kids out there that don't have homes that are unwanted and this is a way to get in front of it before you even have to make any hard decisions," said Amber Vazquez Bode, a mother of two. 

Susan Ellington, a 21-year-old University of Texas student, agreed.

"If you had to ask somebody else to get it for you, like your parents, sometimes girls might want to avoid that which can result in worse consequences for them in the future. So I feel like nobody should have to feel uncomfortable getting what they need," Ellington said.

But not everyone supports the idea.

"If that option is more open to kids that age, I feel like maybe kids will feel more okay about having sex at such a young age," said 21-year-old Melody Hwang. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is also against the ruling. Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro Life Activities released a statement saying:

"A federal district judge in New York has ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift all age limits on over-the-counter access to the so-called "emergency contraceptive" drug Plan B and its generic versions.

Plan B is a large dose of a powerful hormonal drug (levonorgestrel) that is available only by prescription when used in smaller doses for contraception. The court has acted irresponsibly by making this powerful drug available without a prescription to minor children.

Plan B does not prevent or treat any disease, but makes young adolescent girls more available to sexual predators. The court's action undermines parents' ability to protect their daughters from such exploitation and from the adverse effects of the drug itself.

Many studies have shown that wider access to "emergency contraception" among young people does not reduce pregnancy or abortion rates, but can contribute to higher rates of sexually transmitted disease. No public health consideration justifies the unregulated distribution of such drugs to children. This ruling should be appealed and overturned."

Critics also say they accessibility to the pill will make teens more sexually active, but doctors disagree.

"We have not seen in studies that it makes people more likely to have risky behavior," Loar said. "And also I've seen it, you know, in my own practice. When I see someone who has used Plan B recently, usually it's a pretty scary time and they're so thankful that they had an option."

Loar said while she sees about five pregnant teens a month, most of her patients that request the pill are in their late 20s and early 30s.

Loar also said that because the hormone in the morning after pill is the same as what the body naturally produces, it does not have an adverse health effects in adult women or teenagers.

Pharmacists also told KVUE News that information about the pill is not widely known and so they don't think it will have a large effect on teenage sexual activity or teen pregnancy rates. But because the order does not take effect for another 30 days, pharmacists will still require an ID to purchase the drug.