Ladies and gentlemen, we’re on the verge of witnessing one small step for (womb)mankind and one large step for the pharmaceutical industry.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has consistently exhibited strong resistance to making Plan B, more commonly known as the morning after pill, accessible to the masses. After years of battling with Teva, the company behind Plan B, the FDA is expected to make a decision tomorrow on whether or not to make the pill available over the counter to girls under the age of 17. Since first sparking controversy five years ago upon its release into the market, Plan B has only been available behind-the-counter to adult women — after they presented identification.
Submitting the request in February, Teva has waited almost a year for a response from the agency, and tomorrow’s decision may drastically change women’s health and how we respond to it in this country.
In an interview with the Washington Post, former FDA employee, Susan Wood, of George Washington University, expresses her relief that the FDA may finally make a move on Plan B:
“If you got into a Wal-Mart and the pharmacy is closed, you’re out of luck … By having it on the shelf, more women will become aware of the availability of emergency contraception and won’t have to ask someone in an emergency situation about a very private and personal situation. Hopefully, that will help women when time is of the essence,” says Wood.
Though the safety issues have been addressed, and Teva has conducted studies proving that girls ages 11-17 can easily read the usage instructions, conservatives have still found a way to find fault with the distribution of Plan B to girls under 17 years of age. Among the reasons that they pulled from thin air: molestation.
“When anybody can buy an emergency contraceptive like this over the counter, you open the door for all sorts of abuse, and especially so when it comes to child abuse and child exploitation,” said Janice Crouse of Concerned Women of America, another advocacy group.
Other problems critics foresee include women and girls not receiving STD treatments, nor the parental intervention that a trip to the doctor would necessitate.
While there is bound to be pros and cons in any situation, by opening the floodgates for Plan B, we could potentially see a drastic reduction in unplanned pregnancies, and subsequently, lower the number of unwanted children, child abuse and abortion.
Hopefully, the FDA will see the benefits and make the right decision tomorrow.