Back up your Birth ControlMarch 25, 2009
March 25 is the eighth anniversary of the Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action. This day for increasing awareness of and access to emergency contraception comes just days after a federal judge ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its 2006 age restrictions on the “morning-after pill,” or Plan B emergency contraception pill. As explained in AAUW’s position on reproductive rights,
Approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. In May 2004, Barr Laboratories applied for over-the-counter status for Plan B, an FDA-approved emergency contraception pill. In 2006, after many political delays on the part of the administration and a Senate hold on the nomination of the new FDA commissioner by Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-CA), the FDA legalized the purchase of emergency contraception without a prescription for women and men over the age of 18, with proof of identification. Girls 17 and under are required to have a prescription from a doctor to purchase Plan B, and the pills are only available in drug stores with a pharmacist who is able to verify the consumer’s age and answer questions about the pills.
On CBS News in New York, Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup applauded the decision, saying, “What the judge said is that the agency needs to take a second look and make sure science wins out and not politics.” Northup had written about the need for review of the FDA decision in the Huffington Post just last week.
A few stats illustrate the need for removing barriers to access for emergency contraception:
- Research from the Guttmacher Institute reports that women in the United States have lapses in consistent and correct contraception use over a lifetime for many reasons, increasing the risk of unprotected sex and the potential for unwanted pregnancies.
- The United States has the highest rate of pregnancy among teens aged 15–19 in the Western world with numbers trending higher.
- Almost 25,000 women become pregnant every year in the United States as the result of sexual assault.
Passage of the Prevention First Act, access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive health information and services, and expanded access to emergency contraception could help reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion in this country.