Plan B – More Than Just a Pregnancy Alternative

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Plan B – More Than Just A Pregnancy Alternative

If there was a form of birth control available that could greatly reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies in America, wouldn't you be all for it? As a woman who believes in the right to choose but also values life, I believe this could be the answer to many controversial issues in the United States today. Controversy and bureaucracy surround a drug that exists today that could accomplish this goal. The pill, Plan B, is what health care officials refer to as an "emergency contraception pill" or ECP. The controversy surrounding this pill is two-fold. First, there is the Food and Drug Administration's lack of prompt decision-making in reference to making this ECP readily available to the public. Then there is the controversy from the pro-life advocates that consider this pill to be a form of chemical abortion, similar to RU486 or "abortion pill". However, most agree that the availability of this ECP could ultimately reduce the need for unwanted pregnancies and consequently abortions. What is it and how does it work? Plan B is similar to most birth control pills in that it contains high-levels of natural hormones, primarily progestin, that prevents ovulation. The difference being that Plan B provides the hormones in larger doses. If taken within 24 to 72 hours after having unprotected sex, the ECP will likely prevent ovulation or fertilization of a woman's egg (Pruthi, 2006). Plan B differs from the abortion pill RU486 in that it will not work after a woman has already become pregnant. RU486 is a combination of powerful medications that actually induce an abortion (Pinsky, 2001). Plan B, on the other hand, uses hormones to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant by blocking the ovulation of the egg therefore no fertilization or pregnancy can be established. Although Plan B has been available in the United States for years, it is only available with a prescription. Since this pill is only effective when taken within the first 72 hours of having unprotected sex, time is of the essence. Having to schedule an appointment with a doctor then have a prescription filled takes time and therefore hinders the woman's ability to take advantage of the ECP's effectiveness. Coupled with the lack of pharmacies that carry the drug, and that each individual pharmacist has the right to fill the prescription based on his morals and religious beliefs; the process of obtaining the drug becomes convoluted, confusing and time-consuming. Take, for instance, a case in Tucson, Arizona involving a rape victim. A young woman was sexually assaulted over the weekend and spent the next three days frantically seeking a pharmacy that even carried the Plan B pill. "A 2004 survey of more than 900 Arizona pharmacies found that half keep emergency contraception drugs in stock" (McClain, 2005). Most pharmacies claim that lack of demand is the reason for not stocking the pill but family-planning agencies report they have seen a dramatic increase in demand in recent years. When the young woman finally found a pharmacy that carried the drug, she was informed that the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription because of religious and moral beliefs. This added more stress and anxiety over getting the prescription filled in time. In December 2003, a committee recommended that the FDA make Plan B available over-the-counter to women, however; in May 2004 the FDA "rejected over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B, saying the distributor had not proved that young teenagers can take the drug safely without a doctor's guidance" (Kaufman, 2004). This FDA ruling has stalled the decision-making process again and has left women with limited alternatives. Finally, in July of 2006, the FDA announced that it will consider making Plan B available to women over the age of 18 which advocates of the pill claim will "make the drug...
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