Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Plan C

The FDA overruled its own scientists last month, preventing the "morning after" pill known as Plan B to be available over the counter. So far so typical for the Bush administration, who favors ideologs over actual science [please read the article; he is an old friend of mine from the DLC]

Today's Slate points out a large fallacy in the FDA administrator's logic for blocking Plan B: that sex is very rare for 11-14 year olds after all, despite his claims.

"A North Carolina research group called Family Health International placed ads in public places, announcing a hot line that anyone could call to have an EC [the shortened, chemical name for Plan B] prescription phoned in to a pharmacy. Over two years, 121 calls came from women 40 or older; 845 from women 30 to 39; and 4,000 from women 20 to 29. There were 783 calls from 19-year-olds, 840 from 18-year-olds, 612 from 17-year-olds, 409 from 16-year-olds, and 167 from 15-year-olds. From there the call volume plummeted: Just 31 calls came from 14-year-olds and four from 13-year-olds. No 12-year-olds called in. One 11-year-old did. Combined, girls ages 11 to 14 made just 36 out of 8,000 EC requests, less than .5 percent of the total." Of course, that number may get higher if you can get it like aspirin instead of calling in for it, but other studies show it to be pretty small.

Well how about the CDC's own study, then? A 2003 report, called Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, "just 7 percent of today's adolescents have sexual intercourse before the age of 13. Among these, the vast majority are boys. For girls-- the population Galson [the FDA Administrator] is talking about [when he decided not to let Plan B go over the counter]-- the figure is much lower: The 2003 data show that only 4 percent of girls have sex before they are 13." Slate's Lisa Mundy points out that most of these girls are in the most need of the morning after pill. They are less likely to use condoms (partially because many of their encounters at this age consists of forced sex by older men) or other birth control and are unlikely to get abortions because of parental notification laws, which means they will become teen mothers and high school dropouts.

During the Clinton years, teen pregnancy dropped dramatically; during the Bush presidency, you guessed it, it is going up. This not only reflects the worsening economic conditions but further hinders our future competitive ability. High School dropouts don't usually found successful, dynamic 21st century companies, let alone industries. In fact, they will probably be more of a drain on public funding than support to it. Isn't it worth a little effort now to save big bucks in the end?

And just so you know, Plan B is actually a combo of several birth control pills and not is RU-486. "B" is something people used to make at home until a company started making it is cheap large batches. So if you think Abortion is murder, but take the pill, you can't have any qualms with Plan B. But if you are stricter pro-lifer, then perhaps it is still murder to you to prevent a fertilized zygote from attaching to the lining of the uterus.

The reason it is called the morning after pill is of course because it is most effective immediately afterwards or the next morning. And precisely because sex is the type of activity that doesn't comply with doctor's hours, getting a prescription is overly burdensome.

Due to Galson's ruling, the company that manufactures Plan B is now going for plan C: asking for it to be sold "semi-over the counter" to 16 year olds and up. This will make the morning after pill like cigarettes and condoms in some places, you have ask for them and show ID. This just another way of discouraging their use, really counteracts the whole point of making them over the counter anyway. Then again, our more liberal neighbor to the north, Canada, does the same thing.

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