December 10, 2012 — A coalition of physician groups on Friday sent a letter urging HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to remove age restrictions on nonprescription access to emergency contraception, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The letter coincided with the one-year anniversary of Sebelius' decision to overrule FDA's approval of nonprescription sale of Plan B and other EC products to people of all ages (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 12/7). Currently, people younger than age 17 require a prescription to obtain EC, and anyone 17 or older must present proof of age to purchase it without a prescription (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5).
The letter was signed by nearly a dozen groups representing gynecologists, pediatricians, primary care physicians and other health care providers, including the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The letter stated, "Extensive scientific research and medical expertise continue to support [FDA]'s decision to lift the age restriction in order to make Plan B more accessible to all women." The letter continued, "All women should have [EC] as a back-up birth control option in cases of unprotected sex, sexual assault or contraceptive failure," adding that allowing people of all ages "to buy Plan B over the counter would also result in fewer unintended pregnancies." According to the letter, EC is "extremely safe" for teens to use.
In addition, the doctors noted that Sebelius' decision has resulted in situations in which pharmacists provide inaccurate information to doctors and patients about the drug's availability (CQ HealthBeat, 12/7).
Reproductive Rights Advocates Add to Calls for Expanded Access
Separately on Friday, more than three dozen women's health groups and providers sent a letter urging Sebelius to lift the age restrictions on EC, NPR's "Shots" reports (Rovner, "Shots," NPR, 12/7).
Kirsten Moore, president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, said that advocates believe the post-election political climate is favorable for the Obama administration to revisit the issue. "The voters said very clearly this past November that when it comes to women’s health, they think that prevention is a good thing; providing contraception is a good thing; reducing barriers to access, ... is a good thing," she said (Rovner, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 12/7).