Doctors Urge Making Emergency Contraception More Available To Teens

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement that says doctors should let their teenage patients know about emergency contraception and write them a prescription for it in advance as part of a public health strategy to reduce teen pregnancy.

The policy statement addresses the “promiscuity” concerns opponents have to making emergency contraception more widely available to teens, dismissing it outright. “We have no data showing that…Because of the adolescent mind and brain, teens don’t think in the abstract. They don’t think, ‘I need to be careful because I might have sex tonight.’ They can make impulsive decisions,” says Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, a professor of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington and one of the statement’s lead authors in TIME magazine.

“People say that if you make this available that kids will have more sex and less protected sex, and that is not true,” Breuner said. “Seven studies showed that is not true.” Roughly 42 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds report having had sex, and 10 percent of them say they were forced into it, the statement noted.

Breuner and her colleagues reviewed the safety and effectiveness of three emergency contraception methods: Plan B or Next Choice (levonorgestrel) and ella (ulipristal acetate), which affect the hormone progesterone, and combination oral contraceptives. Many pediatricians do not know enough about how emergency contraception works to discuss it with their patients, Breuner said. Some doctors won’t prescribe it because of biases but they should refer patients to someone who will, she added. This policy statement is designed to foster those conversations and get the ball rolling on access.

School nurses and health clinics also can play an important role in educating teens about emergency contraception, Breuner said. “If we are going to do anything about reducing our teen pregnancy rate and make it not the highest in the developed world, we need to provide more education to family and children,” Breuner said.

The teenage impulsive decision-making process coupled with the fact that access to emergency contraception varies means teens are at best confused about how and when to access emergency contraception. In most states teens younger than 17 must obtain a prescription from a doctor to access emergency contraception. According to the AAP, teens are more likely to use emergency contraception if it has been prescribed in advance which would go a long way toward reducing teen pregnancy rates.

The statement recommends pediatricians begin discussing EC proactively with teens at pediatric well visits starting at age 12. Authors of the study compare discussing EC to doctors discussing drug and alcohol use, smoking, asking about depression or suicidal feelings and urging their teen patients to wear helmets while biking, says Breuner. “This is not about saying a 12-year-old should be given a prescription for emergency contraception,” she says. “We are recommending that pediatricians start talking about some of the things that promote happy and healthy living for teenagers. This is about prevention.”

Anti-abortion opponents will not like this latest policy statement as many believe emergency contraception to be an abortifacient– a point the authors of the statement also specifically and categorically reject. But like the recent recommendation by ACOG to make the birth control pill available over the counter, it is good to see the medical community take an affirmative stand in defense of public health after the relentless attacks on family planning by the religious right.


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Photo from Florian via flickr.


Natasha Salgado
Past Member 5 years ago

And so they should. We have a population crisis on this planet. This is must for teens. No more people,please.

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara5 years ago


Robert C.
Robert Cruder5 years ago

Medical insurance does not cover OTC products. Emergency contraception as well as conventional oral contraceptives (if they become OTC) would not be covered.

How can one predict the effective availability of oral contraception if it were OTC but not covered under the ACA?

Shouldn't funny-mentalists be demanding OTC status for oral contraceptives so that their insurance plans would no longer need to pay for them?

The sad problem for funny-mentalists is lack of a consistent goal against which to measure each position. Perhaps I can assist.

My own mother, a lifelong catholic claimed to simultaneously believe that a child is a gift from god and that contraception is wrong because those women who were screwing around should not get off Scott-free.

If a pregnancy is a gift, shouldn't one deny such a valuable thing to those who are immoral and in fact force them to use contraception? Reject that interpretation as inconsistent with typical funny-mentalist rant.

If a pregnancy is a two-decade-long punishment for immoral behavior, shouldn't one inflict it on immoral people and deny them contraception or abortion as an escape? Enshrine that interpretation as totally consistent with typical funny-mentalist rant.

Now that we secularists understand that contraception and abortion are wrong because they interfere with divine punishment, we need only discover the immoral act for which additional punishment must be inflicted on rape and incest victims.

Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago


Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

My mother made a botch of sex education. The school beat her to it. I was sufficiently terrified of my mother to remain a virgin until my mid-twenties, at which time I had started on birth control pills for menstrual cramp control (bad enough cramps to disable me for about four hours each month) and was already engaged to be married.

Karen Howard
Karen H5 years ago

Penny C, it's unfortunate, but a lot of parents have no idea how to educate their own kids about sex.
The morning after pill is for females. What kind of education are the males getting? I’m tired of the “pro-lifers” picking on the girls. Teach your sons to keep it in their pants & see what that does for the teen pregnancy rate.

Therese Davey
Therese Davey5 years ago

"pediatricians begin discussing EC proactively with teens at pediatric well visits starting at age 12"
The report recommends that chidrens doctors discuss emergency contraception following unplanned sex with their child patients?? Discuss it as you would the need to wear a helmut for cycling because it promotes happy healthy living for teenagers??? I cannot believe someone wrote that. Education is important and it starts at home, its not just about information its about values and personal dignity and letting your child have the freedom to be a teen and know they can say no as long as they want but to be fully informed at the same time. Life for a teen is bad enough without the pressure of an early sex life and all that goes with it. Let them be happy and healthy (without the stds and pregnancy) for a few years at least is a better plan surely??

Melania Padilla
Melania P5 years ago

Of course they should be more available to teens! There would be less single and so young mothers, less children without a family, less poverty, less OVERPOPULATION!
And the list goes on.....

Thomas P.
Thomas P5 years ago

Thanks. The morning after pill is NOT the same as an abortion. Moreover, it would lead to fewer abortions and fewer heart wrenching choices to be made later. Even adults forget things, even important things.

Penny C.
penny C5 years ago

Educate your own kids about this.