Anna Higgins is Director, Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. This article appeared in U.S. News and World Report on May 6, 2013.
Protecting our children should be our foremost concern when creating and implementing health policy. The first line of defense in protecting the health and safety of children is input and guidance from parents and doctors. The decision to allow unfettered access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B to girls as young as 15 shows an alarming lack of concern for the safety of young girls and the fundamental rights of parents.
There have been no studies on the safety of this high dose hormone on young girls. Additionally, to echo the concerns of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama, there is good reason to believe that young girls do not understand that this drug is designed to be used only once per month and is not a substitute for oral contraception.
Finally, allowing Plan B to be available without a prescription distances those girls at highest risk for sexual abuse and sexually transmitted infections from the medical supervision they need. A 2010 study out of the United Kingdom shows a spike in the instances of sexual diseases among teens following the provision of Plan B over the counter.
The decision to exclude parents and doctors from dealing with the sexual behavior of underage girls and the administration of a serious drug is irresponsible and dangerous. Parents have every right to be informed and to consent to any decision affecting their child's health, education, or upbringing. Teenagers under the age of 17 cannot even be admitted to an R-rated movie and schools are required to obtain a parent's permission to administer any type of medication to a child or teen. Yet through this policy, the Food and Drug Administration inexplicably asserts that young teens should have access to a potentially dangerous drug without supervision of a parent or doctor.
Another of the most alarming aspects of this new policy is that Plan B will be available not behind a pharmacy counter, but rather on the store shelves where it can be picked up and purchased by anyone with identification stating that they are at least 15 years old. This is a flimsy protection, indeed. In order to fully protect the health of teens and rights of parents, the FDA's decision should be overturned.
America's girls and their parents deserve better than this ill-conceived plan.