Federal ruling for morning after pill draws mixed reviews

Published On: Apr 05 2013 06:15:26 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 05 2013 06:16:54 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Young teenage girls may soon be able to get the so-called "morning after pill" without a doctor's or parent's permission.

A federal judge ruled the FDA must remove the requirement that women 17 years old and younger have a prescription for the drug.

The ruling has some women's health care providers excited that all ages will have now have open access to the contraception, but others worry it could keep younger women from having important conversations about their reproductive health.

Medical experts in the La Crosse area said there are no health risks for younger women from the Plan B contraception, but it's the emotional health of young women that has some concerned about the new ruling.

Beth Hartung with Options Clinic in La Crosse said the new federal ruling requiring over-the-counter emergency contraception to be available to all ages is a reason for celebration.

"This is a great day for women across the country," said Hartung.

She said the ruling means fewer unplanned pregnancies.

"It's a very safe, very effective drug or medication that will reduce unintended pregnancies and that's a big health benefit," said Hartung.

"I think it can't do anything but prevent unplanned pregnancies for two reasons. One, that it's effective 80 to 90 percent and two, it's the often near-misses that spur people on to use more effective forms of contraception," said Dr. Kenneth Merkitch with Gundersen Health System.

Medical experts said it's also an incredibly safe drug for women to take.

"It doesn't cause blood clots. It doesn't cause other abnormalities because it's progestin only," said Merkitch.

"The science has really supported that there is no danger of this drug at all forĀ  women of any age," said Hartung.

But despite the physical safety of the drug, some worry it's an emotional danger for young women.

"Whenever it comes to family planning that's a big decision for any woman to make whatever the age they are. They need to be sure that that's the decision they really want to make," said Brownsville resident Angela Paul.

Paul said she's worried that open access to the drug means young girls will be able to avoid important conversations.

"If they had the option of taking a pill and not telling their parents I think a lot of girls might take that option instead and pretend it never happened instead of really standing in the truth about their relationship and what they're doing and the consequences of what they're doing," said Paul.

Merkitch said he doesn't believe open access to emergency contraception will prevent those important conversations from happening.

He said it's always important to reach out to your children but unfortunately, many times those conversations aren't happening.

Health Experts said the emergency contraception is sometimes mistaken for an abortion-causing drug.

They said the drug works to prevent pregnancy but cannot cause an abortion if the baby has already been conceived.