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Contraception, Ethics, pregnancy

10 reasons why Plan B should be OTC for all ages

1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Aspirin are available over-the-counter (OTC) both highly lethal when taken in over dose. One bottle is all it takes. No age limit or mental health screen is required before purchasing either.

2. Plan B is most effective the sooner you take it. Reducing barriers to getting it (i.e. calling a doctor, asking for the prescription) saves time.

3. A 16 year old can drive a car. Legally. That is far riskier than taking Plan B.

4. Plan B has no serious side effects nor medication interactions.

5. A 14 year old who has a baby can sign consent forms so her baby can have surgery and make decisions what to feed that child, but not purchase Plan B to prevent her next pregnancy? Really!?

6. Numerous studies show that access to Plan B does not encourage irresponsible sexual behavior.

7. Plan B is OTC for all ages in 8 of the 10 Canadian provinces and things still haven’t gone to hell in a  hand basket up north.

8. Almost 1 in 5 practitioners are reluctant to discuss emergency contraception with adolescents, so having Plan B eye level helps teenagers know it exists and where to get it.

9. Making Plan B OTC is recommended by both the American College of OB/GYN and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

10. The World Health Organizations’ “Medical Eligibility for Contraception” guide has no condition in which the risks of Plan B outweigh the benefits.

There are a million (ok, a hundred or so) reasons to make Plan B OTC for all ages.

The only reason to prevent widespread access? Politics.


18 thoughts on “10 reasons why Plan B should be OTC for all ages

  1. Plan B is OTC here in Mexico too, has been for at least 5 years

    Posted by Nlara | December 8, 2011, 8:33 am
    • Great post Dr. Gunter…absolutely love your science-based approach to medicine. Among the hundreds of reasons to allow Plan B over the counter is that Canada has Plan B over the counter and has a teenage pregnancy rate of 1/3 of US…from Amanda Marcotte…

      So glad i’m following you on Twitter!

      Posted by Mark Parker | December 11, 2011, 9:53 am
  2. Nice points.

    Could you speak to the question of whether younger girls may incorrectly use Plan B as their primary form of birth control (thinking it’s a substitute for the pill). Is there evidence for that? Isn’t that what HHS was primarily suggesting?

    Posted by danbeachler | December 8, 2011, 9:41 am
    • Even if they do – and I don’t know what evidence there is for that – using Plan B as contraception is surely better than not using anything.

      Posted by QoB | December 9, 2011, 3:21 am
      • From what I’m reading using Plan B reduces your chance of conception by about half (from 1/20 to 1/40). If girls assumed that Plan B is as effective as normal oral contraceptives and used it as their primary form of birth control then there will likely be a higher number of births/terminations.

        There are two things I need to see before supporting prescription only Plan B for younger women:
        1. Are younger girls more likely to believe that Plan B can be used as a primary form of birth control?
        I haven’t seen any evidence suggesting that.

        2. Does preventing girls from getting OTC Plan B increase the uptake of other forms of contraceptives?
        Highly doubtful – but worth studying so maybe we can change policy!

        Posted by danbeachler | December 9, 2011, 7:29 am
  3. Great reasons! I think another important reason is for young women to develop the habit of using Plan B after unprotected sex rather than developing the habit of taking the chance.

    Posted by Elizabeth | December 8, 2011, 10:04 pm
  4. “Plan B” has some pretty serious side-effects for the baby…

    Posted by Bart Simpson | December 11, 2011, 12:21 am
  5. Thanks for posting this. This issue is so important to women’s health. Please sign this petition I created so that Secretary Sebelius and President Obama will pay attention!

    Posted by ericrosoff | December 11, 2011, 7:46 am
  6. thanks for posting this issue Dr. Jen Gunter . .this post gives me another knowledge about “medical information”

    Posted by Marsha Sadler | March 8, 2012, 12:15 pm
  7. I agree 100%. It should be sold over the counter. It is a birth control pill NOT sex control pill.
    In addition to that, I find it insulting that women who obviously look older than 17 years old (in the US) are ID be able to buy it.
    I am 47 and accident happens. And when something like that occurs you don’t want to wait for a pharmacy to be open at office hours. That aside, it is extremely humiliating for a grown up to have to “prove” OBVIOUS age.
    Idiotic laws applied with stupidity by stupid people and nobody fighting to change them.
    I really feel for the young girls who are in need and have to go through this nightmare.

    Posted by artermix | November 1, 2012, 7:12 pm
  8. I also would like to add an extra comment to those who questioned the possibility for young girls who might use Plan B as a primary form of BC. First and foremost, Plan B is a massive dose of hormones, and about 25% of user have some form of side effects. No woman young or old…er wants that.
    It also comes to a very high price of $50 a pill. Thus, I really doubt the trend for teenagers would be to use it as a substitute when it would be so much cheaper to get birth control pills, or other forms of contraceptive.

    Posted by artermix | November 1, 2012, 7:23 pm


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