Sexually active teens should have access to emergency contraceptives, said the American Academy of Pediatrics in a new policy statement. The doctors recommend that teens should have a prescription for emergency contraceptives, such as the well-known Plan B brand, before they start having sex.
Currently, the pills are available over the counter for people over 17 – the AAP suggests that if younger teens had access to ‘Plan B,’ there would be fewer unplanned pregnancies. The rate of teen pregnancy has fallen significantly during the past 20 years, but the U.S. still has the highest number in the developed world.
Emergency contraceptives can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, or when a condom breaks, but they are most effective when taken within 24 hours. The AAP suggests that if the ‘morning after’ pills were available to teens, they could be used quickly and effectively, without the logistical hang-ups of a last minute prescription. Opponents of the plan say that providing access to Plan B encourages teen sexual activity, doesn’t reduce pregnancy rates and ignores other negative consequences, such as sexually transmitted diseases.
Should teens have access to emergency contraceptives? How should doctors approach sexual activity and sex education with young patients? Would easier access to birth control and emergency contraceptives help prevent teen pregnancy, or encourage unprotected sex?
Anita L. Nelson, M.D., Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine; spokeswoman for the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Donna J. Harrison, M.D., Director of Research and Public Policy, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists