Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Morning After Pill - Over The Counter?

I tend to be pretty liberal (ok, REALLY liberal) on most social issues. I feel confused and torn about the Morning After Pill being over the counter (OTC).

Pros For The Morning After Pill OTC
  • I really do value life, really...but I also value living beings that are already out of the womb and trying to make the best of a sometimes difficult world. I rejoice at the idea of a friend or relative helping a teenaged girl that's been raped to acquire the pill to prevent a pregnancy that would turn her life upside down - both physically and emotionally. Some girls aren't ready to face what's happened and go to a hospital or the police...and we have to accept them where they're at. Some hospitals won't prescribe the morning after pill because they have religious affiliations.
  • Any FDA or legislative act that leans towards Pro-Choice I think is A-OK. While I feel morally against late-term or partial-birth abortions, I would back policies protecting that right for women. Any steps backward on this issue takes us closer to overturning Roe vs. Wade. I could never get a partial-birth abortion (I'm not even sure I could get one in the first trimester!), but it's not for me to say whether it's not right for someone else...especially if that mother could lose her life giving birth. Whose life is more valuable?
  • The Morning After Pill has a lower impact on the body than a surgical or chemical abortion.
Cons For The Morning After Pill OTC
  • This is where the slope gets slippery for me. Working in HIV/STD PREVENTION, I have some real concerns about what ramifications this decision will have on STD rates. What about a college student that doesn't learn that protection is important because she has the security of using this pill after a one-night-stand? She's treating one symptom of a dangerous decision - pregnancy. What about HPV, syphilis, gonnorhea, Chlamydia, HIV? Pregnancy really may end up being the least of her concerns.
  • This pill could take away people feeling they need to make responsible decisions. It's, as the pill is already called, a "Plan B". "Plan A", which I feel needs to be using condoms consistently and correctly, or abstinence, may slip to a lower alphabetic priority...making the pill the first option.
  • What are the long-term effects of this pill on a women's body when used as birth control? And let's be real, some people WILL use this as birth control.
  • What kind of backlash will this being OTC have with conservatives, and will it stir them to action to take away reproductive freedoms?
My Verdict

I don't think I have one yet. I've discussed it with some colleagues and friends, we're all pretty much on the same page (and I have some L-I-B-E-R-A-L associates). With freedom comes responsibility. I'm not for it, I'm not against it. I think it may be kind of off my radar. I'm watching curiously, and won't be upset either way.


Blogger elanflux said...

Well now. I can see both sides to this controversy. I however, I do not think they should make it available OTC. I am pro-choice. No doubt about it. Fortunately, I have never been put in a position to have to make that difficult choice, but, I’m grateful that it would be mine to make if it came up. I can’t fathom a society that would deny an individual authority over their body. That being said…

My reasons are simple. It WILL defiantly make condoms a low, or non-existent, priority. Be realistic. Let’s just say an impressionable young lady is at a college party. The hot guy actually says hi to her. Long story short, hot and steamy, clothes come off, and here she is, inhibitions low, feelings running rampant, and the moment of truth. “Do you have a condom?” he says, “No, baby we don’t need one. Come on. I don’t have anything; you’re so beautiful, and sexy. I want you so bad. I don’t wanna stop now, baby. You want me too don’t you?” I’m not very good at this, but you get the idea. The possibility of pregnancy is, for a lot of young people, more of a reality then the risk of a disease. “That could NEVER happen to me.” With all the education in the world (alright maybe not ALL) a teen in that position, at that moment, doesn’t believe this ‘guy’ could possibly have something. He doesn’t Look the type. And even if the thought creeps in and tries to reason with her she’ll probably talk herself out of it. I mean she’s gone this far, She’ll be ridiculed. He’ll NEVER talk to her again. And besides maybe he really likes her.
This situation may not be the norm, but isn’t one to many?
Another point…
I have to admit, I don’t know all the details, but a doctor, a trained specialist, and/or a therapist should be in involved. Besides people using it as a method of birth control, (which will absolutely happen, women have had 3 or four abortions as it is now) who’s to stop them from taking it in later months? What would it do to a developed baby? What would it do to her body? What would 3 of 4 pills do? Or what if a man decides he doesn’t want to be a daddy (as we know happens) he could force this pill down a potential mommy’s throat. Again, I don’t know all the detail, but if it's as easy as grabbing a bottle of aspirin, we are inviting many situations like these and some even more horrible. Are there any safety guards in place?

Girls won’t be as careful. I think some guys will be more aggressive. The risks are just to great.
As long as Planned Parenthood can continue to do what they do, girls can acquire this pill with medical expertise, easily, anonymously and safely.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the FDA will actually make it OTC anytime soon, but it's interesting to hear these viewpoints on it.

One thing I think is crucial to understand is that it is the same components of regular birth control pills, just in a bigger dose. Please think about that when re-reading reasons NOT to make it OTC. Women have already been creating their own "morning-after" pill by taking a larger dose of their regular pills. Therefore, many of the risks of plan B will be the same as taking birth control pills.

Economics are important here as well - condoms are cheaper than plan B, and have about the same degree of accessibility if plan B goes OTC. On the other side, there are people who will ALWAYS rationalize not using condoms even with NO chemical birth control options - I don't think we'll see a bigger drop with plan B available (especially with moralizing pharmacists deciding who should and shouldn't be allowed to purchase plan B, it's unknown if the woman will be able to purchase it in time).

I won't go into the concerns about using it late-term, because the information can be easily found elsewhere - but do note that it doesn't PREVENT a pregnancy that has already been fertilized and attached to the uterus, the same as regular birth control pills. I think the concerns about plan B are exactly what people thought when birth control pills first came out, and none of them cause me to wish women didn't have the ability to choose their fertility.

I know the work you do Carolyn is so very important to STL, and people in general maintaining their health and helping others stay healthy! There is never a time to let up the message about condoms - and I share it as well (bringing plenty to share to Burning Man!). This part of your work won't change with plan B - condoms, condoms, condoms is still the important part. Keep updating us on you and your co-workers thoughts on this - it's very interesting!


10:06 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Thanks to both of you for your blog doesn't usually heat up with discussion...I really value that people discuss respectfully, and both of you, while disagreeing with each other and me, clearly appreciate hearing other views. :)

Madalene and Elan, I agree with both of you, which is my confusion. I am completely straddling the fence. I know that people will use it more than recommended, and I also know that it's the same chemical I've been putting in my body for 15 years. But taking a full months worth of pills at once a couple times a year surely affects the body differently than taking one per day.

And true, the pill is only affective in PREVENTING pregnancy if taken within 72 hours, but how would those hormone levels affect an embryo if it had already attached?

I think I need to do more research on this. I could fall into giving my opinion too extensively on something I don't know enough about.

9:57 AM  

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