The progestin-only hormonal contraceptive in Norplant is the same active ingredient as Plan B. Norplant is no longer available for use in the United States because it is so dangerous. Known risks include significant weight gain, ovarian cyst enlargement, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure and respiratory disorders.
Among teenagers, some of these common side effects could result in increased rates of bulimia, anorexia, or clinical depression. Also, an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy has been associated with use of Plan B-type emergency contraception.
Since the drug precludes parental involvement, it is likely that teenage girls who buy Plan B at the drugstore and then experience abdominal pain may not confide in parents so that a physician could diagnose if a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy had occurred. Over-the-counter approval would mean that young people would be free to purchase and use (abuse) this powerful hormone without supervision or follow-up.
The drug was approved for over-the-counter use on January 1 in Australia. Already there are reports in the Australian press of 13-year-old girls buying the pill several times a week to the alarm of local pharmacists who are not able to give proper counseling to these girls on the many risks involved. The Australian Medical Association is already questioning the wisdom of making this risky drug so easily available without restriction (The West Australian, 4/4/04).
If over-the-counter availability of this drug is approved, we may also expect that rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teens will skyrocket. Adolescents age 15-19 currently represent 46% of all cases of Chlamydia in the U.S. One in four sexually active teenagers contract an STD at some point. In Washington State and in Sweden, where emergency contraception has been made widely available, rates of STD infection are skyrocketing.
We can also expect an increase in the rates of sexual violence committed against adolescent girls. The easy availability of this drug over the counter will make it more difficult for teenage girls to resist pressure to have sex, and will trivialize the act of rape.
Over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill will lead to an increase in the pregnancy rate among teenagers. Studies have shown that increased rates of pregnancy occur among teens with increased use of “emergency contraception.” Another showed that teenagers whose pregnancies ended in induced abortion were more likely to have used the drug before conception, and that teens who use the drug were more willing to engage in “risk-taking” behavior.
Please take time to call the White House or, better yet, jot a note to your Senator or Congressman regarding the morning-after pill. If it goes over the counter as scheduled on May 21, then anything goes. Lives will be compromised and families further undermined. A sample letter follows:
April 29, 2004
Dear Senator ____________ (or Congressman _____________): I understand the FDA is set to decide whether or not the morning-after pill (MAP) will go over the counter on 21 May 2004. I believe that pressure from you and your colleagues could stop this dangerous drug from being made available to very young girls without medical supervision or parental knowledge. Would you please advise the FDA to cease and desist? If MAP is approved, then it won't be long before the FDA makes the birth control pill available over the counter. This will further compromise the sanctity of life and the integrity of the family.
Address City, State Zip
Steve Mosher is the president of Population Research Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to debunking the myth that the world is overpopulated.