August 9, 2005
In just three weeks, the Federal Drug Administration will decide whether women can purchase emergency contraception without a prescription.
The contraceptive is commonly referred to as Plan B or the morning after pill. The FDA says it’s a relatively safe pill that can help prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, but whether or not it should be sold without a prescription is an issue that has sparked controversy nationwide.
Plan B opponents think easier access might give woman more reason to have unprotected sex, but the other side feels over-the-counter sales would help prevent unintended pregnancies.
Some advocates and doctors have asked that the FDA require an age limit so that women 16 and under would still have to get a prescription. But requiring an age limit is hard to enforce and there's still a chance teenagers could have someone older buy the pill for them.
Family-planning organizations like Planned Parenthood believe over-the-counter access should be open to everyone.
"We believe that all people including teens have the right to decide freely and responsibly whether and when to have children so we think that their access to contraceptive methods is also very important," said Becky Reid, Grassroots Organizer for Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge Inc.
There are laws in at least 7 states that would allow women to buy Plan B even without an age limit, if the FDA approves it. But here in Virginia, the age limit would still apply.
The FDA is set to make its final decision on Plan B on September 1.