A federal judge on Friday struck down restrictions on Plan B, a birth control pill designed to be taken after sex to prevent possible pregnancy. According to NPR, within 30 days, the Food and Drug Administration will allow women to buy Plan B and generic counterparts without prescriptions or age-based restrictions.
The ruling came in response to the restrictions placed on the drug by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius originally mandated that girls under 17 needed a prescription to get the drug. In his opinion, Judge Edward Korman wrote that the restrictions placed on the drug by Sebelius were “arbitrary and capricious” and influenced by “politics” rather than facts, according to the Washington Post.
Korman is absolutely correct in his legal reasoning. There was no reason to place an age restriction on the acquisition of the drug. True, young people should not be having unprotected sex, as they are unlikely to be able to fully comprehend the emotional implications of these activities, but marginalizing girls who do have sex is morally reprehensible. Society should not burden these girls with pregnancies.
Opponents of unfettered access to Plan B argue that giving young girls access to Plan B will encourage them to further engage in sexual activities because they know they have a safety net if they do not use contraceptives before possible insemination. These same groups have made similar arguments about educating young women about safe sex practices rather than preaching abstinence, saying that telling girls there is a safe way to have sex only increases sexual activity.
According to Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit advocacy group, about 50 percent of teenagers have had sex and abstinence-only education has not reduced the amount of sex teenagers are having. It has, instead, increased the rate of unsafe sex in which already sexually active teenagers are engaging. Similarly, giving teens access to Plan B will not increase the amount of sex that teenagers have but will instead reduce the numbers of teen pregnancies in this country.
Teenage pregnancy is a significant burden on society. The 750,000 yearly teen pregnancies cost American taxpayers an average of $10.9 billion annually, or an average of $14,500 per pregnancy, according to a report from Planned Parenthood. Aside from the cost to the taxpayers in lost revenue from the mother, teen pregnancies usually result in less education for both parent and child and increase the chances that the mother will be living in poverty and relying on government-funded welfare programs.
Consequently, giving access to Plan B that decreases the likelihood of teenage pregnancy will save taxpayers significant amounts of money. Plan B costs about $50, which is significantly less than the burden placed on society by not preventing pregnancies arising from inevitable sexual activity.
If American lawmakers want to legislate morality and decrease teenage sex, then they should consider addressing some of the root causes of sexual behavior rather than simply denying women access to modern medical technology.
So far, policymakers have been unable to find a serious and effective solution to inexpensively decreasing teenage sex. If policymakers continue to be unable to find a solution, then the legislatures should turn their attentions toward making sex safe and eliminating the negative consequences from sex. Reducing access to Plan B was a move in the wrong direction, one that, luckily, the court has now reversed.
Eliminating the need for a prescription to Plan B also helps older women. Under the previous rules, adult women considered responsible enough to make their own choices about their reproductive health needed to show their IDs to prove that they were old enough to legally buy the contraceptive without a prescription. Consequently, pharmacists had information about the private lives of women. Expecting women to involve more people in their own reproductive choices is embarrassing and invasive.
The only groups still uncomfortable with Korman’s decision to eliminate the restrictions on access to Plan B are out of touch with the facts. Women are going to have sex, and, occasionally, women are going to get pregnant as a result. Instead of marginalizing the women who want to make their own decisions about their reproductive health, society should give these women support and guarantee their reproductive rights.
Dan Morgan-Russell is a freshman majoring in international relations global business.