The FDA has just approved a new emergency contraceptive, Plan B One-Step, which is like the usual Plan B but is only one pill taken once. Yay, uncomplicated emergency contraception! Like Plan B, it can be bought over the counter by anyone 17 or older. 16 or under, you have to get a prescription.
As a 17-year-old I’m pleased to know that although I could drive and 16 and can’t vote until 18 the things I can now do have expanded in recent months to include not only seeing R-rated movies and talking on my cell phone while driving but also purchasing over the counter emergency birth control. But it does make me wonder about the reasoning behind age restrictions on these things.
A 16 year old girl is of the legal age of consent in Minnesota. Yet if she consents to sex and has a birth control crisis, she has to go get a prescription before she can get Plan B. Plan B is more effective the faster you take it. And going to the doctor and then to get a prescription filled takes time. So what does this restriction do other than make it harder for a girl 16 or under to prevent an unwanted pregnancy?
Not only that but it’s much easier for a woman no longer living with her parents to run off to the doctor’s office and get a prescription before work. While many 16 year olds (at least in our state when you can get a driver’s license at 16) could probably find a way, 15 year old girls and younger may have no choice but to tell a parent and risk consequences. I know the opposing arguments, that a 15 year old is too immature to be having sex. But that doesn’t stop any of them, and it won’t stop them from getting pregnant. Surely those who wish to protect younger girl by giving them no means to protect themselves don’t think these girls are old enough to become mothers.
Of course part of the reason is that taking emergency contraceptives can have a larger effect on the body of a younger girl, making her quite sick. But there’s got to be a warning on the box anyway, and to a girl that age pregnancy has to be a health risk too…
So perhaps we should go with the assumption that, whether or not she “should” have being having sex, any girl should have the right to obtain emergency contraception as quickly and easily as, if she can’t get emergency contraception, she will be obtaining a pregnancy test soon.