The Center for American Progress applauds today's long-overdue decision by the Food and Drug Administration to grant over-the-counter access to Plan B, a back-up birth control method that reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89% if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Since Plan B is more effective the sooner it is taken, it is critical that women have the ability to obtain Plan B as soon as they need it.
After three years of excuses and delays, the FDA has taken a step closer to restoring its integrity as a trustworthy watchdog of the public's health and safety and as an agency that relies on science rather than politics to inform its decisions. However, the public's confidence cannot yet be completely restored, because today's decision limits the over-the-counter availability of Plan B to women 18 and older-despite the FDA's own findings that Plan B is safe and effective for women of all ages.
Women ages 17 and younger must still jump through hoops to obtain a prescription for Plan B and get it filled. With almost 300,000 pregnancies to women under 18 in this country each year, it is a shame that our government would deny these young women a second chance to protect themselves and their loved ones from the consequences of an unintended pregnancy. This age limit does nothing to safeguard the public's health.
The Center commends the reproductive health advocates who fought tirelessly for improved access to Plan B, as well as Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA), whose unwavering support was essential to today's victory. Although over-the-counter status for Plan B is a very welcome development, we note that it is no substitute for regular contraceptive use or visits to the doctor. We therefore look forward to continuing this good work to increase women's awareness of and access to Plan B and to ensure that all of their health needs are met.