FDA may permit 'morning-after' pill on shelves

Baptist Press
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Posted: Dec 06, 2011 5:52 PM
WASHINGTON (BP)--A "morning-after" pill that can cause abortions may soon be as simple to purchase as deodorant and hair spray.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must decide by Wednesday whether it will permit the drug known as Plan B to be sold on store shelves instead of from behind pharmacy counters, The Washington Post reported. Wednesday is the deadline for the FDA's reply to a petition by the pill's manufacturer to loosen requirements for its sale.

The "morning-after" pill, also known as "emergency contraception," works to restrict ovulation in a woman or prevent fertilization. The pill, however, also can act after fertilization, thereby causing an abortion, pro-life advocates point out. This mechanism of the drug blocks implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall.

Plan B is available in the United States without a prescription to women 17 years of age and older. Pharmacists, however, keep the pill stocked behind their counters. It also can be sold to men 17 and older. Girls 16 and younger must have a prescription to purchase the drug.

The method of purchasing Plan B has been liberalized twice since 2006. Pro-life and pro-family advocates undoubtedly will protest again a move that makes it easier to obtain the drug -- especially if it makes it possible for children to purchase the pill.

"When anybody can buy an emergency contraceptive like this over the counter, you open the door for all sorts of abuse, and especially so when it comes to child abuse and child exploitation," Janice Crouse, a spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, told The Post.

Foes of the approval and expanded sale of the "morning-after" pill have expressed concern not only that it will result in the deaths of many unborn babies but open girls and women up to potential harm from unsupervised doses of hormones. In addition, they have said it would undermine parental oversight and set minors up for exploitation by adult sexual predators.

The "morning-after" pill, which is also marketed under the brand Next Choice, is basically a heavier dose of birth control pills. Under the regimen, a woman takes a pill within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later. Another "morning-after" pill, Plan B One-step, can be taken in a single dose within 72 hours.

The FDA approved Plan B for sale by prescription in 1999. The agency authorized the non-prescription sale of the drug to women 18 and older in 2006. It lowered the age for non-prescription sale to 17 after it chose not to challenge a judge's ruling in 2009.

The FDA approved Next Choice and Plan B One-step for marketing in 2009. Next Choice is available only by prescription, according to The Post.

Plan B's manufacturer is Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the newspaper reported.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter(@BaptistPress), Facebook(Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email(baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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