Pediatricians: Make Plan B available to teens

The American Academy of Pediatrics joins the FDA in calling for unrestricted access to the morning-after pill

By Katie McDonough
Published November 26, 2012 8:24PM (EST)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement today recommending pediatricians make prescriptions for emergency contraception available in advance to girls under the age of 17. The morning-after pill can prevent pregnancy if used within five days of intercourse, but is only available without a prescription to women 17 and older under current federal policy.

According to Bill Alpert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, requiring a visit to the doctor can prevent many teens from using emergency contraception.

It's just common sense that requiring a prescription is a barrier. If an august and respected medical group like AAP is suggesting providing emergency contraception to minors is OK, that is a big deal.

The statement from AAP has reignited criticism of the Obama administration for rejecting the Food and Drug Administration's recommendation that the morning-after pill be made available without a prescription. In what many considered a political move, Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the agency's findings that emergency contraception is safe, creating a prescription wall for girls 17 and younger. President Obama also came out in support of Sebelius:

The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect. ...  And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

Obama made women's health, access to contraception and abortion rights a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, but his unscientific position on the morning-after pill remains a sticking point for many of the women who got him a second term. (Hi! You're welcome!) Will a growing chorus of women's heath advocates and medical professionals persuade his administration to reconsider his Plan B problem? Only time will tell, but let's hope he'll turn some of that fiery rhetoric about women -- yes, even teenagers -- controlling their own bodies into sound policy recommendations. Sasha and Malia certainly deserve as much.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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