Can teens buy the morning-after pill?
A decision was made in December, 2011 by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to prohibit over the counter sales of Plan B (aka the morning-after pill) to teens younger than 17 years old. In other words, the pill will be kept behind pharmacy counters and can be sold over the counter to girls 17 and older,* while girls younger than 17 can purchase the pill only with a doctor’s order or prescription.
This decision to block young teenagers from over the counter emergency contraceptives took many people by surprise as the Food and Drug Administration was prepared to approve over the counter sales of the pill to all females regardless of age. But the Health and Human Service secretary publicly overruled the FDA.
The morning after pill works by reducing the risk of pregnancy when taken soon after unprotected sex. The pill gradually loses its effectiveness as more time passes after having unprotected intercourse, which is why some opponents of this decision believe it’s important to have the pill readily available to all females on store shelves.
Plan B is made with the same chemical found in birth control pills. Side effects may include nausea, dizziness, fatigue and changes in the menstrual cycle. It’s important to note that emergency contraceptives like the morning after pill do NOT protect against sexually transmitted diseases. For more about Plan B, click here.
In 2012, public high schools in New York City started dispensing free emergency contraceptives and birth control pills to its students. The Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Healthcare (CATCH) program allows parents to opt-out and is designed to educate teenagers about unprotected sex. Statistics for New York City indicated that in any given year there are 7,000 pregnancies to girls between 15 and 17 – 90% of which are unplanned.
Find out more about teens’ rights and birth control.
*In April, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration lowered the age to 15 to buy the morning-after pill provided the teen can show proof of age.