FDA makes morning-after pills available to 15-year-olds, over the counter

The Associated Press reports a “surprise twist to the decade-plus effort to ease access to morning-after pills”:

Today, Plan B and its generic competition are sold behind pharmacy counters, and people must prove they’re 17 or older to buy the emergency contraception without a prescription. A federal judge had ordered an end to those sales restrictions by next Monday.

But Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved a different approach: Plan B could sit on drugstore shelves next to condoms, spermicides or other women’s health products – but to make the purchase, buyers must prove they’re 15 or older at the cash register.

That’s still not good enough for the group that sued to remove the restrictions on the sale of morning-after contraceptives:

The women’s group that sued over the age limits said Tuesday’s action is not enough, and it will continue the court fight if necessary.

Lowering the age limit “may reduce delays for some young women but it does nothing to address the significant barriers that far too many women of all ages will still find if they arrive at the drugstore without identification,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The FDA said the Plan B One-Step will be packaged with a product code that prompts the cashier to verify a customer’s age. Anyone who can’t provide such proof as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport wouldn’t be allowed to complete the purchase. In most states, driver’s licenses, the most common form of identification, are issued at age 16.

“While an improvement over current policy, today’s announcement is still disappointing,” said Marcia D. Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center. “Because all women will be required to show an ID to establish their age, those without IDs could be denied access.”

So… what’s the ultimate solution?  Sell them out of gumball machines?  Maybe those coin-operated robot ponies at the front of the drug store could spit morning-after pills from their plastic mouths.

Also, under current socialist theory, aren’t teenyboppers being “denied access” to these contraceptives if they’re expected to pay for them?  They really should be distributed for “free,” perhaps with a complimentary copy of Tiger Beat.

Social conservatives had opposed any efforts to loosen restrictions on sale of the morning-after pill, arguing that it was important for parents and medical professionals to be involved in such decisions involving young girls.

The group Concerned Women for America charged that health officials were putting politics and so-called progress ahead of the health of children as well as women.

“It makes no sense that kids need parental permission to take aspirin at school, but they’re free to buy and administer Plan B,” Penny Nance, CEO and president of CWA, said in a statement.

Also, we’ve got the government simultaneously telling us that 26-year-olds are children, but 15-year-olds are mature enough to have an active sex life furnished with no-questions-asked morning-after contraceptives.  Actually, some of the people pushing for wider availability of these contraceptives seem to think even younger kids should have access to them.

LifeNews quotes the dismayed reaction of Anna Higgins, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, who cited skepticism from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in her response:

???This ruling places the health of young girls at risk. Making Plan B available for girls under the age of 17 without a prescription flies in the face of medical information and sound judgment. I am very troubled that the court has not fully taken into account the concerns expressed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and many public health advocates that there is not enough data on the health effects of Plan B on young girls,??? she said.

???According to the new numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control, there were 19,700,000 new STIs reported in 2008 ??? the last year for which numbers are available. Based on the CDC???s estimates, that brings the total number of STIs in the U.S. to just over 110 million. Most of the new cases crop up in young men and women aged 15-25. Making Plan B available over-the-counter for any age will put many of these young girls at further risk because it circumvents necessary medical screening for sexually active girls,??? she told LifeNews.

???There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to young girls, under coercion or without their consent. The involvement of parents and medical professionals act as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today???s ruling removes these commonsense protections,??? concluded Higgins.

When we’re talking about girls this young, is this really a decision we want parents and doctors completely excluded from?  The argument in favor of over-the-counter sales, with no questions asked, is that young girls shouldn’t be hesitant to obtain such drugs.  But aren’t we removing the last few remaining factors that might make them hesitant to have sex?  If we’re officially giving up on all hope of influencing the behavior of young people in a positive way, then shouldn’t all those industries that spend a fortune chasing the young demographic stop wasting all those media and advertising dollars?