Amber Taylor over at Crescat Sententia is conviced that it's a good idea for Emergency Contraception to be purchased over the counter:
Setting aside the obvious mathematical error in this statement (emergency contraception is not fifty times stronger than regular birth control pills; in fact, many birth control pills can be used as EC if taken in multiples), I eagerly await the FRC's [ed: Family Research Council, with whom Amber is taking issue] lobbying efforts against permitting minors to purchase more than a single dose of any medication without a doctor's oversight. After all, we allow children to purchase 100-count bottles of Tylenol, which is of course potentially fatal if misused.
I'm speaking well out of my expertise here, but hopefully some of my doctor friends will chime in, because I simply don't buy this. I might as well argue that I look forward to the day in which Amber advocates getting rid of prescription medication altogether, since any medication on the market is presumed to be safe if it's properly used. This is some powerful stuff, and fits my layman's knowledge of what is properly 'prescription.'
I remember running into emergency contraception during my first year at Oxford: I believe the English were a little swifter to get it to market than we were, though this could be my memory. The women who took it looked pretty dreadful: either the emergency contraceptive pills or merely taking multiple doses can result in severe nausea, cramping, and basically an awful lot of misery. This Amber acknowledges, then writes:
If any teenage girl gets the idea in her head that she doesn't need to go on the pill and can just use EC every time she has sex, she will be disabused of that notion in short order. If people are worried about overdosing, the danger is equally present with other over-the-counter drugs.
True. Nonetheless, EC in its working order
can normally make one sick as a dog, and that's not counting for outliers. For a 14 year old living with parents, this may result in all sorts of problems. For instance, a young girl struck with nausea may be taken to the hospital, where (supposing she doesn't say what she's done) she may receive inappropriate treatment. And that's just off the top of my head. I'd want to know the data for contraindications among very young women, and how this might be affected by their ability to get medical attention in situations in which they had good reason not to give their parents (or possibly caregivers) full medical information.
Having taken a look not just at the newspaper, but the FDA's advisory board's opinion suggesting approval and the FDA's non-approval letter, the accusations of political influence in the press and by Amber seem a bit premature. First, the commission seems open to a plan for making the drug OTC for women over 16 and prescription-only for those younger. Secondly, it looks as if approval would be forthcoming if they showed that the drug is within safe tolerances for very young women, and my guess (although it's not discussed) is they'd have to show that no risk is posed by young dependent women going through physical trauma without their parents knowing the reason.
Again, I'll just go back to layman's knowledge: that's powerful stuff. And it's powerful not just in an 'overdose' kind of way, but in its recommended dosages. The argument doesn't pass the political stink test for me, but in the other direction: while true, folks like the FRC live for the (never to come) day when contraception will be unGriswolded, there are others who want to make sure that no one, no where, can tell a girl no matter how young that she is not allowed to have sex, nor to avail herself of the equipment allowing her to do so. If that might be dangerous to her... well, 'tis a pity. I'm not one of those people, and I'm not willing to accuse the FDA of that without a lot more evidence.
(Oh, in case you're wondering why I'm 'wasting time' reading stuff like this: it's good practice for Reg. State fact patterns. Especially reading the back-and-forth between the arguments on both sides, which are so full of it as to provide endless grist for the fact-pattern mill.)
UPDATE: Will Baude writes in a later post: "I also think Amber's point about containers of aspirin pretty adequately disposes of the argument that 14-year-old girls are going to overdose on Plan B any more than they overdose on all of the things we already let them buy."
But none of the FDA's non-approval letter seems too concerned about overdose. Nor do any of the commenters in the Washington Post article mention overdose as the risk to 14-16 year olds. Indeed, the (admittedly somewhat histronic) letter of the Concerned Women for America mentions risks of what young men might do with such pills:
The potential for the morning-after pill to be slipped to women without their knowledge or consent; and the probability of the ready availability of the morningafter pill being used to exploit and coerce women – particularly minors – to engage in risky sexual activity.
I'd not thought of that: I can't see why you'd slip a woman a mickey like that to have sex with her--at least not if you want to do it twice--but if you're a 15 year-old boy who's really annoyed with a classmate and wants to go one-up on the Ex-Lax in the chocolate milk trick? Yikes.
Anyhow, Will is quite correct that Amber adequately disposes of an overdose argument. Still, no one serious seems to be making it.