Good Morning

Good Morning

By Kate Augusto

The stress of waiting to know if you are pregnant, the concerns of what you would do if you were and the worries of having to potentially inform your parents of pregnancy while in college may all be in the past. In August, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, for over-the-counter sale.

The importance of having options is also stressed by a female journalism student, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect her privacy.

“I just got caught up in the moment and forgot that I hadn’t taken my birth control on time,” she said. “Sometimes people forget. I think the decision to make Plan B available over the counter is great,”said the student.

When she forgot to take her birth control pills on time and had unprotected sex with her boyfriend, she panicked.

“Afterward, [my boyfriend] had to come with me to Planned Parenthood where we had to fill out paperwork so I could get this pill,” she said.

Plan B, commonly called the morning-after pill, will be available without a prescription for women 18 and older beginning in November, according to Leilani Bowie, Communications Manager of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Women age 17 and under will still need a prescription.

The new availability of this pill, which is manufactured by Barr Pharmaceutical, will allow women who meet the age requirement to get it without having to explain their need for it, an experience the student describes as “a little embarrassing.”

“I think the over-the-counter availability of the pill is a really good thing, because regardless of whether a woman is responsible or not when having sex, becoming pregnant isn’t something a lot of woman my age can handle in the long run,” she said.

According to Leilani, there are approximately three million unplanned pregnancies a year, 50 percent of which could potentially be prevented with emergency contraceptives.

The new over-the-counter status of the morning-after pill will give women easier access to the pill, which needs to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to work most effectively. If taken within this time, the pill can reduce a woman’s risk for pregnancy by up to 89 percent, according to the Plan B website.

The website also explained that Plan B prevents pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg from a woman’s ovary, stopping the fertilization of an egg or stopping an egg from attaching to a woman’s uterus.

Marie Sturgis, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said that the organization disapproves of the use of Plan B for two main reasons. Massachusetts Citizens for Life is an affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee that promotes respect for human life and defends the right to life, for both the born and unborn, Sturgis said.

The first reason the organization disapproves of Plan B is they believe the pill stops the attachment of an already fertilized egg to a woman’s uterus, which is considered an abortion, Sturgis said. However Plan B is different from RU-486 or the abortion pill. Plan B contains levonorgestrel, the same ingredient that is in regular prescription birth control pills. It just contains a larger dosage than is found in regular birth control pills.

“The second reason we’re concerned about the pill’s new availability is its potential harmful effects on women over time. There are no long term studies telling us what the chemicals will do to a young woman’s body. The hormone dosage is 50 times the dosage of a birth control pill. I hope priorities are given to a woman’s health over one evening [of sex],” Sturgis said,

Although similar to birth control pills, experts and doctors warn that Plan B should not be taken in place of regular birth control, but rather as a means of preventing pregnancy in an emergency, such as rape or contraceptive failure.

While there could possibly be long-term effects of this pill on a woman’s body, there are none known thus far.

The FDA, in its statement announcing the approval of Plan B for over-the-counter sale, describes the pill as preventing pregnancy “effectively and safely.”

The pill, which costs $25-$40, is said by the Plan B website to have some potential side effects, including nausea, abdominal pain, tiredness, headache, menstrual changes, dizziness, breast tenderness and vomiting.

However, the freshman girl said, “I really didn’t have any side effects. I felt a little funny, but nothing really happened.”

Students can currently get prescriptions for the pill through Planned Parenthood or University Health and Counseling Services. When the pill is available without a prescription, Leilani said, Planned Parenthood will be able to provide it there. However, UHCS will not carry the over-the-counter Plan B since they do not carry prescriptions.

“At pharmacies, though, you will still need to go to the counter to get the pill due to the age restriction,” Leilani said. “They need to be able to ID individuals buying the pill.”

Cassie Leventhal, a sophomore communications and journalism major, said the upcoming availability of Plan B is a brilliant idea.

“It will definitely help with decision making and planning,” Leventhal said. “People who are against it have no right to judge other people and their actions or decisions. Having it available over the counter is more about giving girls more options.”

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