Up to now in the  United States, girls under 17 could not obtain an emergency contraceptive (must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse) without a prescription.  The Food and Drug Administration was preparing to lift the age limit altogether so young girls could obtain  the morning-after-pill without a prescription.  But at the 11th hour, Kathleen Sibelius, the Health Secretary, intervened and overruled the FDA.

Women’s groups were outraged by this decision.  “We are outraged that this administration has let politics trump science.”

But the decision pleased conservative critics of the propsal.  “It’s a  decision that reflects the concerns that many parents in America have.”

A pediatrician said, “We want it to be available to both boys and girls who have made a serious error in having unprotected sex and  should be able to respond to that kind of lack of judgement in a way that is timely as opposed to having to suffer permanent consequences such as unplanned pregnancy.”

Conservative evangelicals lobbied hard against lifting the ban as did the Roman Catholic bishops.  Incidentally, just a couple of weeks ago the president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Dolan of New York, had lunch with President Obama in the White House.  Some critics of the decision charge that this decision is an attempt to solidify the Catholic vote for Obama.

Should girls as young as 11 be able to get the morning-after-pill without a prescription?

What do you think?


  1. 1

    The FDA made the ~informed~ decision that this drug is safe and shouldn’t require a prescription… and so it shouldn’t. That Sibelius ignored the evidence based decision of the FDA is a disgrace that ~should~ cost her her job.

    Neil asked: “Should girls as young as 11 be able to get the morning-after-pill without a prescription?”

    Yes. Unless you’d prefer that 11 year old to remain pregnant (I know I wouldn’t!)

    The hypocrisy (or perhaps just stupidity) of some people knows no bounds. How people can simultaneously be:

    -> anti-choice
    -> anti-well rounded sex ed.
    -> anti birth control

    is absurd!! Don’t like abortions? Then make birth control easier to access and understand! It seems so simple, yet many of the anti-choice crowd also rail against birth control. It just doesn’t make sense.

  2. 2

    Anyone who thinks they are old enough to have sex, and/or is sexually active should have the full gamut of products and services made available to them.
    Adult activities = Adult consequences.

    Why has this become a political issue. It should be purely a medical issue.
    Oh, Okay, I am dreaming…

  3. 3

    littlepatti asked: “Why has this become a political issue”

    I thought it was obvious… religion.

  4. 4

    Kathleen Sebilius is a pro-choice advocate. She has been a wonderful health secretary, so I will with hold my comment.

    Stat: 39 babies per 1000 girls ages 15-17 in 2009, which is a big decline from previous years. What accounts for the decline would be an interesting stat.
    However that is a lot of unplanned babies!!!

  5. 5

    How about having parents exercise some influence over their kids ,even,heaven forfend,impose rules,and at least try to enforce them .Giving up,saying` here`s the pill,let me drive you to a motel ` is just abdicating responsiblity.

    I live right across the street from a high school,and am treated to the daily sight of these kids groping each other in the middle of said street. The complete lack of any sense of rules,or shame,makes you understand the appeal of fundamentilst religions.

    Not all kids-especially girls-want to be on display,or be put on market in their early teens. They should be able to depend on their parents fro support.

  6. 6

    philsfancy wrote: “How about having parents exercise some influence over their kids…”

    And what about the parents that already do that – and still end up with a pregnant teen? Are you suggesting 24/7 surveillance?

    philsfancy cont’d: “Giving up,saying ‘here`s the pill,let me drive you to a motel’ is just abdicating responsiblity.”

    Where did you get the idea that parents were doing this?

    Having the morning after pill available to all doesn’t mean parents have to abdicate their responsibilities… it just adds another option for women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.

  7. 7
    Neil McKenty Says:

    So, philsfancy, should the parents be notified if their 11-year-old daughter is trying to buy the morning-after-pill?

  8. 8

    Seriously, folks, how many 11-year-olds will walk into a pharmacy and buy a contraceptive when they could be buying something else? Give your heads a shake, willya?

    As for the “complete lack of any sense of rules or shame,” every generation has its own rules for social conduct, and each preceeding generation is filled with reactionaries who are predictably horrified at what the kids think is acceptable. Get used to it. Your parents and grandparents did.

    And if parents are so “concerned,” they should never have abdicated their responsibilities to the state in the first place!

  9. 9

    I know that girls are able to have sex and give birth at 11 years old, but the stats don’t bear out that age group as the problem.
    If parents have to be advised by law that their children, under the age of 17, are buying birth control pills and Plan B pills, then I am quite sure, many kids won’t, they’ll take chances.
    On the other hand, there is some risk associated with all drugs. What if a child died of a blood clot as a result? I guess the parents would be well within their rights to sue the pharmacy, drug company, doctor.
    When my daughter turned 14, I gave her a letter of permission to obtain a prescription for the pill. I have no idea when/if she used it. I never asked.
    Some would think it promoted sexuality, or approval. She was made very clear on my opinion, and consequences, information and choices.
    In hindsight, it was a fine decision, but that could not be said of all cases. Every child is so different and society is making such unreasonable demands-
    Once a child becomes sexually active, it is impossible to turn that clock back. A pregnant teen says “I’ll never do that again”. Yes! They do!
    I am so thankful to be “an old Lady” as someone pointed out to me in another blog- (as though I don’t know it), and I don’t have to deal with parental angst!

  10. 10
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Lady Janus,

    The 11-year-old who will walk into a pharmacy to try to buy the morning-after-pill will be the same 11 year-old who thinks she may be pregnant.

  11. 11

    I think Janus’ point, Neil, is that the number of 11 year olds who find themselves pregnant is so small as to be virtually zero…

  12. 12


    If you do your best,then you`ve done what you can. But to simply give up and say ` just be careful`,no. My second statement about driving the kid somewhere was just to make a point.

    neil, yes,parents must be notified. we are fully legally responsible for them. We have all sorts of safeguards in place for kids,including drugs adminisered by their schhool or daycare,and the rules must also apply to pharmacies.

  13. 13

    What Joe said, Neil. Also, why on earth would an 11-year-old think she is pregnant? For real, I mean? Never mind the ones that think they might be pregnant because the only “sex education” they got told them NOTHING — or worse, filled their heads with lies.

    “When my daughter turned 14, I gave her a letter of permission to obtain a prescription for the pill. I have no idea when/if she used it. I never asked.”

    Wow, Patti! That is so impressive! I bet you’ve got a fantastic relationship with your daughter!

  14. 14

    I think that a person’s sexuality is a private matter, regardless of their age.
    I agree that kids don’t get enough sex education, but that really is a parental responsibility, but there’s more to it than the act of sex. It’s about self respect, self image, restraint as well.
    I do have a fantastic relationship with my daughter, we adore each other. She calls me every day and we are blessed by a 14 year old grand daughter who is just beautiful. She also has a great relationship with her mom & dad.
    Life doesn’t always work out fairly, but usually “reap what you sow”.

  15. 15
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Lady Janus,

    An 11-year-old might fear she is preganant because she had unprotected sex with her 15-year-old boy friend the night before.

  16. 16

    The age is immaterial. Babies having babies is a tragedy for all.
    I think that anyone under 25 is too young for parenthood, today. (How can a 20 year old boy support a child?) Just one of the many questions.
    I wonder if all teenage boys should be required to use a birth control method:
    A one shot-good for 5 years. Then, we could concentrate on testing for STD’s.

  17. 17

    Neil: all the more reason for comprehensive sex education in schools, because parents WILL NOT take the responsibility of providing it in their own homes!

    I was raised in an era when girls were generally not allowed to date at all until they were fifteen, and then usually only in groups. I realize that things have changed dramatically, and that pre-teen dating is now fairly common. But the precautions available are the same: information, education, and easy access.

    What is WRONG with people that they would deliberatley withhold such things?

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