Preventing Teens from Preventing Pregnancy: “Plan B” not an Option for Teens PART I

In 2011, the secretary of health and human services’ banned over-the-counter sales of emergency birth control to girls under age 17… in 2013, a federal judge challenged this decision.

When Kathleen Sebelius, former health secretary of President Obama, blocked the sale of emergency birth control (commonly referred as the “morning after pill” or by its name bran of “Plan B”) to girls under the age of 17, President Obama endorsed her decision, saying that “the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going into a drugstore should be able – along with bubble gum or batteries – be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.”

However, not everyone believes that Plan B will produce “adverse effects” on young girls.

Ted Miller, spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America, and others in women’s groups argued that science supported the use of such medication for young girls: “Teva, the pill’s maker, commissioned two large studies in adolescents to satisfy government concerns about selling freely to them.” This did not satisfy Ms. Sebelius, who said in her reject that neither study included 11-year-olds. Even so, according to Dr. Phillip Stubblefield, a contraceptive expert from Boston University School of Medicine, there is no reason to believe that the morning-after pill would react any differently than older girls.

A huge part of the controversy of emergency contraception is that it is commonly confused with the abortion pill, when in fact, emergency contraception only prevents pregnancy, not terminates it.

 

But you tell me, what would you rather have: a pregnant 10 or 11-year-old, or a 10 or 11-year-old buying Plan B?

Research has demonstrated how teen pregnancy and childbearing negatively affects the parents and society, including substantial social and economic costs. In 2008, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for nearly $11 billion per year in costs to U.S. taxpayers for increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers. Moreover, only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.

Life isn’t easy for the children of teen parents either: compared to children born to older mothers, children born to teen moms are likely to drop out of high school, live in poverty, become teen parents, use Medicaid and CHIP, experience abuse/neglect, enter the foster care system, end up in prisons, and be raised in single parent families. Unfortunately as well, the children of teenage mothers are more likely to have more health problems and face unemployment as a young adult. Additionally, these children have lower scores on measures of kindergarten readiness and lower vocabulary, math, and reading scores. In 2011 alone, almost 330,000 babies were born to teen girls between the ages of 15 and 19.

To clarify, Plan B is an emergency contraception to be taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Plan B is NOT to be confused with RU-486, the abortion drug. So if you ask me, I’d rather have emergency birth control available to teens who desperately need it than more disadvantaged teen parents and children. And apparently, so does a federal judge. Check out Part 2 for the rest of this article.

Creative Commons Image Provided by: Shannon Kringen
Edited by: Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins is an honors student at American University (Washington, DC) majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her interests in sex education and youth sexual health motivates her research, blogging, and activism for comprehensive sex education, more progressive attitudes about adolescent sexuality, and the improvement of sexual health outcomes in America.
Alifa Watkins