April 6, 2013

Maine parents support morning-after pill ruling

A federal judge says the 17-or-older age restriction on sales of the pill is 'arbitrary' and 'capricious.'

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Pill

Do you agree with the ruling that requires the FDA to make Plan B available to everyone regardless of age?

Yes

No

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20130405_NextChoice
click image to enlarge

This Friday, April 5 photo shows a package of Next Choice, a morning-after birth-control pill that approved by a judge for girls of all ages.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

"I felt like I was murdering my baby," she said.

But the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine said the ruling "obliterates" the expectation that a girl would have to be at least 17 to get the drug on her own.

"We believe it ignores the involvement of parents and medical professionals who are safeguards for young girls," said Executive Director Carroll Conley Jr.

Megan Hannan, director of public relations for Planned Parenthood of New England, said her organization is happy with the ruling.

"We know it's safe and effective. ... There is no medical reason to make it only available for women 17 or older," Hannan said. 

In 2011, the FDA was ready to rule that Plan B be made available to all women regardless of age. But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an unprecedented move, overruled her own scientists.

Sebelius said some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children but shouldn't be able to buy the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own.

President Obama said at the time that he supported Sebelius' decision, also citing concern for young girls. On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president's position hasn't changed.

The 2011 move shocked women's groups, and in his ruling Friday, Korman blasted Sebelius for what he called an "obviously political" decision.

"This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds," Korman wrote, saying the number of young girls using such drugs "is likely to be minuscule."

Yet the sales restrictions are making it harder for anyone to buy the pills, especially young and low-income women, he said.

Korman also noted that other over-the-counter drugs that are dangerous for children are sold without age requirements, while "these emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over-the-counter."

Knowing the drug is medically safe is important to parent Elizabeth Scifres, who said she supported the judge's decision in general, but understood how it could be troubling for some people.

"For 'everybody' I think it's a good idea, but when I think of my own daughter, I really want to be part of that decision," said Scifres, who has a 9-year-old daughter and coaches the South Portland High School girls tennis team. "(But) it's hard to say that making her have a prescription would actually mean that I would be."

The Family Health Program manager for Portland, who oversees medical clinics located at several Portland high schools, said the ruling won't have much impact. The clinics have doctors on staff who can write morning-after pill prescriptions, and the clinics already offer reproductive services.

"I don't see that changing too terribly much how we do business," said Lori Gramlich. "We'll continue to offer kids an inclusive range of services, and that includes reproductive services."

 

The Associated Press and Morning Sentinel reporters Kaitlin Schroeder and Matt Hongoltz-Hetling contributed to this report.

 

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

 

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Today's poll: Pill

Do you agree with the ruling that requires the FDA to make Plan B available to everyone regardless of age?

Yes

No

View Results