Viewpoint: Plan B Is Very Misunderstood

Emergency contraception is not "the abortion pill." Like other forms of birth control, it prevents fertilization in the first place

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Scott Olson / Getty Images

Emergency contraception — which is just one more form of birth control — is in the headlines this week, with the Obama Administration’s decision to expand access by making it available over the counter, while at the same time still requiring that you must be 15 or older to buy it.

This is an important moment for women’s health, and it’s a good time to step back and get clarity about what emergency contraception actually is and why it matters so much.

(MORE: Critics and Supporters React to Decision to Expand OTC Access to Plan B)

Emergency contraception is not “the abortion pill.” Like other forms of birth control, it prevents pregnancy from happening in the first place. Specifically, emergency contraception postpones ovulation, so that sperm does not come into contact with an egg.

Pregnancy does not occur immediately after sex. It can take up to six days for an egg and a sperm to meet after having sex — a critical window of time during which pregnancy can still be prevented.

One in 10 women of reproductive age has used emergency contraception. Women use it in a variety of circumstances, including if their partner’s condom breaks, if they missed or forgot to take their regular birth control, or if they are sexually assaulted.

(MORE: New Availability of Plan B Makes Philadelphia Abortion Doc an Anachronism)

When a woman needs emergency contraception, time is critical. Until now, emergency contraception has been kept behind pharmacy counters because of age restrictions, which creates barriers for women of all ages because pharmacy counters usually aren’t open as long as the rest of the drugstore, lines are longer, and interactions with staff can be more complicated.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it approved plans to move emergency contraception out from behind the pharmacy counter and make it available to people ages 15 and older, with valid identification. This is an important step forward, and it will help more women of all ages prevent unintended pregnancy.

But we need to do more. The Obama Administration also announced this week that it is appealing a court decision that eliminated the age restriction entirely. We strongly disagree, and believe that the court ruling should stand. That ruling would expand access even further, and it is based on strong scientific evidence showing that age restrictions are unnecessary. Research clearly shows that emergency contraception is safe and effective at all ages, and that access to emergency contraception doesn’t increase sexual activity or high-risk behavior in young women.

(MOREWant to Prevent Teen Preganancy? Pay Teens Not to Get Pregnant)

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month,  a reminder that we all have to do more to help prevent unintended pregnancy. An estimated 750,000 pregnancies will occur among 15- to 19-year-olds each year. While teen births have been declining since 1990, they remain higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries.

Sex education and access to birth control are effective in preventing teen pregnancy. We know what works, and now we have to make sure all women and teens have access to it. This week, we saw important progress — and we also saw how much further we have to go.

MORE: The Argument You Don’t Hear About Birth Control in Schools

45 comments
teenmd
teenmd

Obama/Sebelius have gone AGAINST science, favoring politics. Playing politics with young women's health is not cool. Rather than let a judge's ruling stand that Emergency Contraception should go over the counter without age restrictions because MDs and scientists from 70+ orgs and the FDA non partisan panel have agreed on that, his administration is going to appeal that judgement. ridiculous! sign this petition if you are angry, sad like me.  Let's PREVENT unplanned, unwanted pregnancies in teenagers!

http://bit.ly/13TqOCH


Also, here is the EC information in video form start at 2:22 go to 8:19

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPFI_cCwrsg&list=PL60434F4C46DB7740&index=38

Also, I provide the evidence that EC availability to teens does not change sexual health behavior, increase risky sex, change birth control use.

enita
enita

What if a girl younger than 15 years old were attacked by a sexual predator and now was obsessed with a horror of unwillful pregancy? Ian't she entitled to get emergency contraception so that she can be liberated from the horror? 

JocastaBryan
JocastaBryan like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

What 15 year old has valid ID? Some would, but not most. Take the chains off birth control and give the reins to the individual. I don't care how old or young she is. Give her the power.

daena.vassar
daena.vassar

You are singularly malicious if you are not a woman and have a vote on this topic.

1.Interestingly, have each of you “pro-life” folks ever spared a part of your life towards the countless children that grow up in families where they were not wanted in the first place?  A child that is not wanted has a much greater tendency towards criminal behaviour.  Have you adopted such an unwanted child?

2.Since no man carries a child full term, men should not have an opinion on this matter- how would you like old ladies legislating on Viagara? Maybe they are of the opinion that Viagara promotes promiscuity in aging men and therefore reject it on moral grounds.

3.Legislating about birth control is legislating a woman’s body: it flies in the face of every individual freedom and human right.

4.You say a child growing in a womb is a full person?  Well can an in-utero child satisfy the following requisites of being an individual person:

a.If the mother so wishes, can the child fully terminate its physical dependancy on the mother?

b.Can the child cease to make the hormonal changes in the mother’s body if such changes directly cause her stressful work-life?

c.If the mother so chooses, can the child cordially part ways with her, without in any way making any violent infractions to her physical person?

d.If the mother dies while giving birth, can the newborn be tried for negligent manslaughter?

5.This topic raised in recent years by Conservatives is only with malicious intent towards women.  If you subscribe to this agenda of theirs, you are malicious as well.  Especially so when the legislation applies to rape victims.

If you do not fully have the confidence in the intelligence and maturity of the woman, don’t have sex with her.

fbwilliams69
fbwilliams69 like.author.displayName 1 Like

It would appear that Ms.Richards might be confused also-or the following does not fit her agenda.

From WebMD-

Depending upon where you are in your cycle, Plan B or Plan B One-Step may work in one of these ways:

  • It may prevent or delay ovulation.
  • It may interfere with fertilization of an egg.

It is also possible that this type of emergency birth control prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus by altering its lining.

sel
sel

@fbwilliams69 The whole lining of the uterus thing is BS and they need to start telling people so.  It was always only a theory and the evidence shows consistently it isn't true. They have studied this endlessly.  The morning after pill only decreases your odds of pregnancy if taken within 72 hours.  After that, your odds are the same.   If the pill could alter the lining to prevent implantation, that would not be true. Your odds of getting pregnant would be lower.

For those who don't understand this, let me explain.  Fertilization and implantation is about a 6 day process.  Sperm can live for maybe 5 to 6 days but most of them die within 72 hours.  That's why you are most likely to get pregnant if you have sex within 3 days before or 3 days after ovulation.  An egg can only survive for about 1-2 days after being released if unfertilized.  

Technically, if you took the morning after pill after 72 hours, it could work IF you happen to have sperm live that long.  But the odds of pregnancy aren't very high at that point.  

If you took the morning after pill but you had already ovulated and it was fertilized, it would take several days to get to the uterus to implant- getting to that 4-5-6 day mark.  If the pill could prevent fertilization at that point, your odds of getting pregnant should be less during that time period. But it isn't.  

b1batty1
b1batty1

@sel @fbwilliams69 Most sperm die in the vagina within an hour, go back to biology class, idiot


sel
sel

@b1batty1@sel@fbwilliams69Maybe you should work on your reading comprehension skills.  Because I think it's fairly obvious that I am talking about the sperm that gets past the vagina, idiot.  You know, the sperm that might actually be relevant in this conversation?

DonnaDiva
DonnaDiva like.author.displayName 1 Like

@fbwilliams69 It's possible that a unicorn might fly out of your butt too but it's not likely. The main way Plan B is understood to work by scientists, not anti-choice nutjobs, is by preventing conception. 

johnronds12567
johnronds12567

@DonnaDiva @fbwilliams69 anti-choice nutjobs? The only 'nutjobs' are those that believe terminating innocent life is a 'choice'. Love how you mask it as 'anti-Choice' as if it is a breach of freedom. It is not anti-choice, it is anti-murder. Why don't you take biology 101 and learn about life and when it begins...or are you one of those nutjobs who believe foetuses are dead and magically come to life at birth? Sicko!

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed like.author.displayName 1 Like

@fbwilliams69 Plan B is birth control, nothing more, nothing less.  Stop trying to make it into something it's not.

Dorama1427
Dorama1427 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Explain to me how that doesn't fit into her agenda?  She may have simplified the science a lot, but she didn't lie; no matter how to slice it, this option prevents pregnancy and nothing else.

rohit57
rohit57

You say, "Research clearly shows that emergency contraception is safe and effective at all ages, and that access to emergency contraception doesn’t increase sexual activity or high-risk behavior in young women"

I agree that physicians are qualified to make the first statement.  But the second part "doesn’t increase sexual activity or high-risk behavior" depends heavily on what reference group you are using, what methods, etc.  I would like to see the exact report. 

Note that many years ago Kinsey published a book titled Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.  But his research had been carried out exclusively with American females, and relied on what they said (since he had no way of knowing what they did).  Maybe Kinsey was "scientific" but as someone with a degree in Physics I would say that his standards were a bit low. 

For an analogy, we prohibit people under the age of 18 from buying cigarettes.  Now of course cigarettes are not particularly safe.  But we are discussing the social dimension where safety is a side issue.  Can we argue that allowing fifteen year olds to buy cigarettes over the counter would NOT increase cigarette use?

I feel that too many progressive arguments take the form, "If Republicans are against it then it must be good."   I do not think this is a scientific method to arrive at conclusions even though this method is widely used.

a_librarian
a_librarian like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@rohit57 Surely someone's researched this question since Kinsey? Hmm, if only there were some resource one could turn to in order to find out...it'll come to me in a minute, I'm sure.

Dorama1427
Dorama1427

As an engineer I think your statements about being a physicist are irrelevant.

rohit57
rohit57

Perhaps Kinsey's book could have been titled "Unverified statements about sex made by those American females who were willing to talk to Kinsey."   Then it would have been more scientific, but would have sold fewer copies. 

So I would take "doesn’t increase sexual activity or high-risk behavior" with a huge grain of salt.

Dorama1427
Dorama1427 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Kinsey has been largely debunked, and no one cites him seriously anymore.  Why on earth are you brining him up?

TimNFtWayne
TimNFtWayne

@rohit57@Dorama1427
"obviously an angry and excitable person who makes rash statements"

This must be a non-rash, non-excitable, scientifically-based statement.

Dorama1427
Dorama1427 like.author.displayName 1 Like

So which is it?  Are you a physicist or phsychologist?  And in what capacity?  Your description could include people who sign up as $50 psychology test subject.  And don't misunderstand my criticism as sneering; I prefer not to see people speaking outside their own knowledge base.  Engineering isn't relevant outside of the point that you rasied yourself; I'm more interested in data than opinion.

rohit57
rohit57 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Dorama1427 Dorama, you are obviously an angry and excitable person who makes rash statements.  Actually I am involved with researchers in several fields including economics, psychology and philosophy.   I doubt your expertise as an engieer is of as much relevance.  But sneer away if you like, if you know no better.

Dorama1427
Dorama1427 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Are you a social scientist?  Have you kept up with sociology or social science over the last 60 years?  If you're citing Kinsey as a serious criticism of modern methods then you are ignorant about the entire field of sociology and sex research specifically.  Sheesh, I'm not even sure Kinsey's methods were endorsed at the time.  Having a science degree does not make you an expert on all science.  That's how people get dragged before ethics boards.

rohit57
rohit57

@Dorama1427 I brought Kinsey as a way of saying that what is called scientific research in social science has relatively low standards and while we should pay attention to it, it would be a mistake to regard it as definitive.

hallofrecord
hallofrecord

Now that it is socially and legally acceptable for young "women" to engage in sexual intercourse and purchase after-the-fact contraception, it's about time to decriminalize that same sexual behavior of young men who couple with these young "women."  Statutory rape is an official joke... and should be treated as such.

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight like.author.displayName 1 Like

@hallofrecord I sorry but allowing young women and girls to have access to plan B does not equate to "its ok for 45 year old men to have sex with 15 year old girls"

Statutory rape laws went over board in the past by criminalizing sex between people who were old enough to be married in some states (Texas Im talking about you) How ever in states like AL and PA statutory rape is what protects  8 year olds from sexual exploitation for 50 year olds.

Dorama1427
Dorama1427

I think he's talking about the recent rend of jailing teen boys for sleeping with teen girls.  It's not unheard of for a 15 year old boy to be charged and sentenced with statatory rape after sleeping with a 15 year old girl.  It's a pretty insane practice.

davidhoffman
davidhoffman

The scientists have been working on male contraceptive prescription drugs.  The lack of effectiveness and side effects have so far doomed them.  Research continues.

Dorama1427
Dorama1427

We're talking about two different things here.  I don't know anything about boys or girls being expelled from school for sexual behavior.  I know that boys are being tried while girls aren't, however there is no shame on a teen boy having sex, while there is plenty on girls. We're pretty messed up about sex in our culture.  We simultaneously hate it and love it, and force teens especially in between a rock and hard place.

rohit57
rohit57

 " I'm personally bothered by the fact that we put all responsibility (and blame) for safe sex and preventing pregnancy on girls, and let boys completely out of the discussion". 

Maybe you can cite some figures on how many boys have been expelled from school for sexual matters and how many boys have been sent to prison and compare them to the number of girls who have been expelled from school or sent to prison. 

You might then re-evaluate your statement?

Dorama1427
Dorama1427

I completely agree that there is sexism, and that it's unfairly applied to both genders.  I understand your opinion about Vietnam, and the imprisonment argument can be linked to the ADD argument.  Why do we give boys meds to alter their behavior as children?  I'm personally bothered by the fact that we put all responsibility (and blame) for safe sex and preventing pregnancy on girls, and let boys completely out of the discussion.  Where is the male version of the pill?  Where is the cry to give males reproductive rights?

rohit57
rohit57

@Dorama1427 It is perfectly sane in a country which believes that the lives of males have no value and has no trouble sending 58,000 males to their deaths in Vietnam or jailing men at nine times the rate at which women are jailed.

We just don't notice this anti-male sexism because sexism = anti-female sexism is firmly imprinted in our minds.

Hermione
Hermione like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

If you don't believe in using Plan B, then don't use it.  However, it should not be the job of government to legislate everyone's personal relationships, and that would include marriage as well.

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@Hermione You relize that "the job of government to legislate everyone's personal relationships" is what criminalizes incest, sex with 7 year olds, the sale of young brides and martial rape?

I think the general trend towards legalizing acts between 2 consenting adults is a good thing but dont get stupid with it.

Rachel421
Rachel421

@SwiftrightRight @Hermione In the context of this article, could you explain what acts are "stupid" between two consenting adults?

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@Rachel421 @SwiftrightRight @Hermione  For decades it was a valid defense in many states for me to say my wife "consented" to be sexually assaulted when she married me. In Alabama you were an "adult" when you hit 18 OR married for the 1st time. If you divorced at 13 you were still an adult and girls were sexual exploited with no worry about legal consequences by taking advantages of those laws. 

When you think "consenting adult you probalby think of two adults of of sound mind who are at least 18. When a lawyer hears the term he thinks about the legal definition of the term in relation to a specific behavior as laid out by his state's legal code.

rohit57
rohit57

@Hermione Hermione, are you opposed to government "going into the bedroom" to prevent domestic violence?

Rachel421
Rachel421

@rohit57 @Hermione Do you really not understand the difference between sexual assault and consensual sex?

rohit57
rohit57

@Rachel421 @rohit57 @Hermione I think people did not grasp my point.  My point was that Rachel, Hermione, etc do not object to the government intervening in domestic issues if the government is preventing harm.  Once you have conceded that point, you no longer have the right to offer the argument, "Keep the government out."

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@Rachel421 @SwiftrightRight @rohit57 @Hermione It does not really matter what you think or what you might want to explain. 

Up until 2008 I could force sex upon my wife after she clearly said NO and there was nothing she could do about it other then divorce me. 

Rachel421
Rachel421

@SwiftrightRight @Rachel421 @rohit57 @Hermione Yes, I'd guess it's a safe bet that we understand that, just as we understand there are still plenty of religious institutions that believe marriage is the act of giving permanent consent.  

Do I need to explain that agreeing to have sex with a person once does not give that person the right to force sex at other times, whether or not it is in the institution of marriage?