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Where Do You Stand on Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception for Teens?

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By , 17, Staff Writer Originally Published: November 6, 2013 Revised: December 10, 2013

Editor’s Note: Plan B One-Step emergency contraception is not effective at preventing pregnancy in people over 176 pounds. If you weigh over 176 pounds and need emergency contraception, you should speak to a health care provider about possibly using another emergency contraceptive pill or a copper IUD.

On April 5, 2013, a U.S. federal judge ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove the age restriction on Plan B, and in June, the FDA did just that, which makes it legal for women and girls of all ages to buy Plan B One-Step over the counter. Emergency contraception (EC) is a form of birth control that prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex, sex where the method of birth control failed or sexual assault. Before this ruling, EC was only sold “behind the counter” of pharmacies. This means that girls under the age of 17 needed a prescription to get EC. Girls and women 17 and older needed to show an ID that proves their age in order to buy the medicine from a pharmacy.

Taking EC is all about timing. It can be taken up to five days or 120 hours after unprotected sex, but the sooner you take it, the more effective it is. So when teens under the age of 17 were forced to get a prescription for EC, the longer it took to get the prescription, the less effective EC would be when they finally got it. And it was especially difficult for teens who didn’t have access to a clinic or a doctor to quickly get EC. Now teens can purchase EC at a local pharmacy without a prescription.

Using EC is a very personal choice, and nobody should have the right to restrict that access. Just like other life choices, we should have the right to decide what is best for us.

Emergency Contraception Is a Safety Net

Even though emergency contraception is now available for teens without restrictions, everyone doesn’t agree that EC should be available over the counter regardless of a person’s age. I believe EC is a good safety net if you ever need it. Taking other birth control and/or using condoms if you are engaging in vaginal sex is a good idea, but sometimes you forget to take your pill that day or maybe on a rare occasion the condom breaks. Being able to access EC is important because things do happen.

Sandra, 16, from San Bernardino, California says, “EC should be available over the counter for all teens because it enables teens to take charge of their own bodies. I think that having EC over the counter for all teens allows teens to have more options.”

Should doctors, parents and legislators have the power to control my life and body? I should be able to get EC without having to worry about finding a way to get to the clinic or go to the doctor to get a prescription.

Mature Enough to Take Emergency Contraception

Even though I believe that emergency contraception should be available over the counter for all teens, I understand why some people might think otherwise. Kate, 16 of Princeton, New Jersey, says, “Although the need for emergency contraception for teens is incredibly high and controversial, most teens are not mature enough.”

I understand that taking medication requires a certain maturity. But I believe that teens who are taking EC are being mature and responsible, and they’re making the decision that is right for them. Taking steps to prevent an unplanned pregnancy is being responsible.

Not to mention, what if a girl is raped and wants to take EC to prevent a possible pregnancy? Should she have to wait for a prescription? If it’s important that EC be taken sooner than later, it seems having EC available over the counter would be best.

Easy Access to Pregnancy Prevention

Pregnancy is life altering, and teens should be able to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Casey, 17, from Princeton, New Jersey, says, “One accident or mistake should not define the rest of their life because they are not old enough to buy emergency contraception for themselves.”

There will always be people who are going to oppose teens’ access to EC because they want to impose their own personal beliefs on us. Using EC is a very personal choice, and nobody should have the right to restrict that access. Just like other life choices, we should have the right to decide what is best for us.

Photo via PBS

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