Teen access to Plan B uneven – either from ideology or ignorance

Since 2009 the Food and Drug Administration has mandated that Plan B and other emergency contraceptives be available without a prescription to women age 17 and up. In reality, a new study suggests, a 17-year-old’s access to these drugs can be uncertain.

In the study, two female research assistants at Boston University called every commercial pharmacy in five major cities and asked whether emergency contraception was available to them that day. If the answer was yes, they followed up with the question “If I’m 17, is that okay?”

At that point, 19% of the pharmacy workers told the young women that contraception would not be available to them. When researchers posing as doctors called the same pharmacies on behalf of a (fictional) 17-year-old patient, however, just 3% of pharmacies said the drugs weren’t available.

Pharmacies, moreover, incorrectly reported the age guidelines for over-the-counter access to 43% of the “girls” and 39% of the “doctors,” according to the study — which appears in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics…

Timely access to these drugs is important, Wilkinson and her colleagues say, since they’re most effective in the 24 hours following unprotected sex or a contraception failure. The odds of getting pregnant rise by about 50% every 12 hours after the event, according to the study…

The faulty information about age recorded in some of the other calls might be due to a combination of “confusion, misinformation, and maybe personal beliefs,” Wilkinson says, although she and her colleagues stress that the study is silent on this matter. A pharmacy’s location and whether or not it was part of a chain did not appear to play a role…

The “misunderstanding among the public, pharmacists, and doctors about this being an abortion pill” is an “ongoing dilemma,” Dr. Jean Amoura says… Ignorance in America is an ongoing dilemma.

“It’s unclear if the pharmacy workers who provided incorrect information to the study callers were simply unfamiliar with the law, but one of the unfortunate results of the age restriction is that it requires drugstores to keep emergency contraception behind pharmacy counters,” Dr. Deborah Nucatola said in a prepared statement. “As the research shows, that restriction creates access barriers for women of all ages and these barriers can in turn result in preventable unintended pregnancies.”

“Preventable unintended pregnancies” still is a panic button for Americans whose education, awareness, concern for themselves and others is trapped in the Dark Ages. It is part of a simple answer to a question of being responsible for your own decisions. As a starter.

Add in additional causes of unintended pregnancies – like rape – and the posturing of religious fundamentalists is criminal.

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