MSNBC: A victory of squeamishness over science

MSNBC: A victory of squeamishness over science

Last week I wrote this piece at MSNBC.com’s Voices, about the Obama administration’s resistance to making Plan B, “the morning after pill,” available over the counter without an age restriction.

The scientific evidence in favor of making the morning after pill available is clear. Anyone with an interest in lowering the rate of abortion in America, or in sparing teenagers the physical, emotional, and financial burden of a pregnancy they haven’t planned and don’t want, ought to welcome the wider availability of the morning after pill. There have been concerns that access to Plan B will make teenagers more likely to have sex.

Obama seemed to share them, despite a lack of evidence, when he argued in 2011 that an age restriction was a good idea.

“As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine,” the president said then. He went on to explain that the decision was made after Sebelius felt it was possible that a girl as young as 10 could find the medication “alongside bubble gum or batteries,” and “if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect. And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.”

As uncomfortable as it is for some parents to imagine their teenage children as sexual beings, that discomfort is no excuse for denying all teenagers this form of healthcare.  Evidence shows that readily available contraception, and education on its proper use, makes teenagers less likely to become pregnant before they want to be. A good proportion of American teenagers have sex for the first time at age 15 or earlier, and almost a quarter of them won’t use contraception during that first time they have sex. This means that there are girls under the age of 15 who want and need the morning after pill. There is no evidence, however, that access to contraception makes teenagers more likely to have sex, and we ought to ask ourselves what it is about teen sex that makes us so uncomfortable that we are willing to throw science to the wind.

You can read the whole thing here.

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