The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new policy guidelines today in support of increasing access to emergency contraception among teenage girls.
Currently young women under the age of 17 must have a prescription in order to get emergency contraception such as Plan B. This restricts access to young women and girls who can't get a prescription after unprotected sex in time to use emergency contraception effectively or are afraid that a doctor will tell their parents. The new AAP policy encourages that pediatricians write a prescription for young women of reproductive age in advance of any sexual activity, along with educating pediatricians about various emergency contraceptive methods including "off-label" combinations of oral contraceptives.
The AAP also addressed the issue of some teenagers being denied a prescription and how this "may be related to the physician's beliefs about whether it is OK for teenagers to have sex." The pediatric group stated that it believes pediatricians "have a duty to inform their patients about relevant, legally available treatment options," including those "to which they object."
In December 2011, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to remove the age restrictions on accessing emergency contraception over the counter. However, the Secretary of Health and Human Services overruled the FDA decision. The AAP's policy change would provide young women a way to access emergency contraception within the confines of current federal legislation.
Media Resources: American Academy of Pediatrics Press Release 11/26/12; American Academy of Pediatrics "Emergency Contraception" 11/26/12; Huffington Post 11/26/12; Reuters 11/26/12; ThinkProgress 11/26/12; Feminist Newswire 12/7/11