Plan B to Remain Off-Limits to Many Teens

BY Jason Kane  December 7, 2011 at 3:05 PM EDT


Photo Illustration by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Just when it seemed that the “morning-after pill” would be making its big debut in American grocery store aisles, the federal government has ruled it should stay behind the pharmacy counter.

The Food and Drug Administration was preparing to announce Wednesday that it would lift the age restriction requiring teens under 17 to have a prescription for the drug. But at the last minute, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the decision, saying she isn’t confident that young girls would know how to use it properly without guidance from an adult.

So the morning-after pill will remain behind the counter, available to women 17 and above with proper identification — and to teens 16 and younger with a prescription.

If taken within three days of sex, the drug can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in a woman’s uterus.

The FDA — joining many doctors and women’s health organizations — says that the pill is “safe and effective” and that easing the restrictions would make it more accessible to young women hoping to use it effectively during the 72-hour window.

Conservative groups hotly oppose that idea, calling it a form of abortion.

Do you have any questions about the ongoing fight over Plan B? Ask in the comments or tweet @NewsHourHealth.