(Originally posted at EmpowHer)
Young women’s sexual health may be affected by a new ruling regarding over-the-counter emergency contraception.
On March 23rd, Federal Judge Edward R. Korman gave the FDA 30 days to make Plan B available to 17 year olds. He also urged the FDA to consider making emergency contraception available over-the-counter to all ages. In his report, Korman argued that the 2006 decision to deny girls under 18 the access to the emergency contraceptive pill unless they have a prescription was arbitrary and politically motivated. The order has been both positively and negatively received. While many organizations view the decision as a step towards reproductive justice, conservative advocacy groups argue that the ruling would jeopardize girls’ health and limit the control parents have in protecting their daughters.
Access to over-the-counter emergency contraception is an important step in reducing unwanted teen pregnancy and teen abortions particularly for young women and women of color. According to an article by Ederlina Co of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a study conducted prior to the 2006 FDA ruling found that 73% of African-American women and 60% of Latinas would be more likely to use Plan B if it were available without a prescription (PDF). The FDA’s new ruling will be particularly important for many young women, who are more likely to have unprotected intercourse due to misuse of birth control, broken condoms, or sexual assault.
Still, the ruling brings to the surface some of the other barriers that stand between young women and reproductive health. Unfortunately, Plan B may not be so easy for many poor women to obtain. Retailers may increase the price of Plan B from its wholesale price of $27.95 to upwards of $40 (PDF). Emergency contraception becomes cost-prohibitive for women of color who are disproportionately from low-income communities. Medicaid’s coverage of OTC drugs depends on state laws. And many recent immigrant women are ineligible for Medicaid under welfare reform regulations. Additionally, providing proof of age at a pharmacy or drugstore when purchasing Plan B makes it difficult for undocumented citizens to obtain the drug.
There is still a demand for increased education and advocacy for reproductive and sexual health. Insurance, travel expenses and misinformation are still factors that keep young women from their right to comprehensive sex education and affordable, accessible sex health services.