Easing Access to 'Morning-After' Pill Raises Concerns

Christian and pro-life groups quickly voiced concern on Monday after a federal judge ordered that the Food and Drug Administration allow minor 17-year-old girls to obtain the Plan B "morning-after" pill without a physician's prescription.

U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to allow Montvale, N.J.-based Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., the company that markets Plan B, to make the pill available to 17-year-olds under the same condition it is available to women over the age of 18, according to The Associated Press.

Currently, the FDA requires minors to obtain a valid prescription for the drug.

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Denouncing the decision, Chris Gacek, senior fellow for regulatory affairs of Family Research Council, said in a statement, "This ruling jeopardizes girls' health and the ability of parents to care for their daughters' physical and emotional well-being. Judge Korman has accepted lock, stock, and barrel all of the claims of a political ideology promoting sexual license for teens."

Gacek highlighted the lack of scientific study on the long-term effects of Plan B regarding high dosage and repeated use in both women and adolescents. He also fears Plan B may be given to women and minors, especially those sexually abused, under coercion if it can be obtained without a prescription.

The regulation expert added, "The availability of Plan B over-the-counter also bypasses the routine medical care of sexually active girls and women, which is important to allow screening for other health conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases."

Similarly, Christian public policy group Concerned Women for America is worried about the lack of "medical oversight" and "parental knowledge" with the easing of access to Plan B pills.

"This ruling puts politics above women's health, and intrudes into parents' ability to protect their minor daughters," said Wendy Wright, president of CWA. "Minor girls need permission to go on a field trip, get a piercing, or in some states use a tanning booth. But now, by one judge's order, girls will be encouraged to rely on an ineffective drug without medical oversight or parental involvement."

Plan B is an emergency contraception pill that contains a higher dosage of hormones than those found in regular birth control pills. It is also known as the "morning-after" pill because it is supposed to reduce the chance of pregnancy if taken within three days of unprotected sex.

Social conservatives believe the pill is equivalent to abortion because it prevents ovulation or interferes with implantation of a fertilized egg.

Judge Korman has ordered the FDA to comply with the court's ruling within 30 days, or by April 21, 2009.

The judge also asked the FDA to consider making the drug available to girls and women regardless of age.

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