So as much as I have and will continue to be a supporter of the President, I disagree with both he and Secretary Sebelius on this one. I'm not an expert on the science of this drug, but it seems to me that we always go a bit nuts in this country about anything that has to do with women and sex. This feels like one of those times.
Dr. Susan Wood, a former F.D.A. assistant commissioner who resigned in 2005 to protest the Bush administration’s handling of Plan B, said that there were many drugs available over the counter that had not been studied in pre-adolescents and that were far more dangerous to them.
“Acetaminophen can be fatal, but it’s available to everyone,” Dr. Wood noted. “So why are contraceptives singled out every single time when they’re actually far safer than what’s already out there?”
But I certainly don't want to align myself with those folks who are saying that President Obama was being paternalistic when he commented on the decision and I don't immediately jump to the conclusion that it was all political. Just because I disagree doesn't send me to those conclusions.
From my experience of working with teenage girls over many years, I'll also add that I don't think this decision right now will have much of an impact. That's because I don't think Plan B is something that many teenagers would use in the first place. It requires them to be concerned about pregnancy immediately after intercourse - something that doesn't happen very often. That's not a parternalistic statement...its a fact of brain development. And its not just my opinion.
Even when young women are given free emergency contraceptives, they rarely take them after unprotected sex, studies have found.
The kind of planning and forethought required to use Plan B immediately after intercourse is not something that most teenagers will exercise. And those that would are likely to use other forms of birth control. The one situation in which that would not apply would be in the case of rape/sexual abuse. It is in those situations where I especially think this drug should be available with as little stigma and hassle as possible.
So I'm not ready to jump on many of the bandwagons I see out there on this one. We have miles to go in terms of the changes I'd like to see that would provide young girls with the information and insight they need to traverse these issues during adolescence. Yes, this drug should be available to them. But overall, its a small part of the work we need to do in pursuit of that goal.