The Arguments For and Against Making Plan B More Accessible
As with any issue relating to birth control and reproductive rights, there are countless arguments both for and against it. According to Valenti, the key arguments made by conservatives who oppose OTC sales of Plan B include:
Valenti breaks down each of those arguments, explaining why they are wrong and then goes on to explain the reasons why making Plan B available OTC would be “an important milestone in reproductive health access”:
When I was 17, my best friend had recently become sexually active with her boyfriend of over a year. They were using condoms, but one night the condom broke. We worked together at the same summer job and after she got off the bus at work the next morning, she told me what had happened. She ended up having to fake an illness and I had to request permission leave work as well to drive her to the doctor to get a prescription and then to the pharmacy to pick up the Plan B. The whole elaborate scheme could have been prevented if she and her boyfriend had been able to stop quickly at the drug store on the drive back to her place the night before.
That is just one example. I’ve heard of other women requesting Plan B because their husband or boyfriend was abusive and they didn’t want to bring a child into a relationship like that. I’ve heard of women who were raped and didn’t want to have the rapist’s baby. I’ve heard of women who would have a difficult time getting out of school or work to go to a doctor’s appointment, but who could easily stop at a drugstore. These are all women who are potential candidates for later getting an abortion or bringing an unwanted baby into the world. Plan B is an effective way to avoid either of those scenarios.
Essentially, the veiled attempts to “protect” women by restricting access to Plan B is, in reality, a way of controlling them, curtailing their freedom, and inconveniencing them for something that they did with (at best) or was done to them by a man.
The Canadian Experience
Plan B has been available OTC in all Canadian provinces except Quebec since 2008. In theory, that is. In practice, people’s experiences are mixed. In Ottawa and Toronto (both in Ontario), it appears to still be behind the counter, but easily accessible if you ask a pharmacist. However, out West it can be purchased openly on store shelves. Some people, both in Ontario and out West reported seeing empty Plan B boxes on the shelf that read “talk to the pharmacist”. In Quebec, where there are still restrictions, Plan B can be obtained by speaking with the pharmacist (no prescription is required). It seems that even with the removal of restrictions in Canada, it may be up to the owners of each pharmacy to decide how they want to handle the sale of Plan B.
The Result: No Change
As a result of Secretary Sebelius’ decision to overrule Dr. Hamburg and the FDA scientists, the current rules regarding access to Plan B will remain in place. All women will be able to access Plan B, but it will remain behind the counter and females under the age of 17 will still need a prescription. Planned Parenthood reacted to the decision by saying that “The FDA’s decision today will no doubt prevent thousands of women and teens from being able to prevent unintended pregnancies.”
Photo credit: meddygarnet on flickr
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