FDA delays decision on emergency contraception

The FDA put a 60-day delay on how to distribute the morning-after pill.

Jamie VanGeest

Abortion opponents and those in favor of abortion rights around the country are debating whether to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription.

On Aug. 26 the Food and Drug Administration put a 60-day delay on the decision to determine how this type of emergency contraception will be distributed.

The FDA is considering a proposed rule that would allow anyone older than 17 to obtain the morning-after pill over the counter or with a prescription.

The decision was delayed to address a number of issues, including whether age should be the deciding factor when the pill is distributed and if an age limit is set, how it will be enforced.

The FDA has released information about the proposed rule so the public can weigh in with its opinion.

College campuses around the country are also debating whether to make the morning-after pill available to students.

In June the Wisconsin State Assembly banned the University of Wisconsin System health clinics from prescribing, dispensing or advertising birth control or emergency contraceptives, according to The Associated Press.

“I imagine there are pharmacies outside (of Boynton) that don’t offer the morning-after pill,” said Deb Que, a registered nurse at Boynton Health Service’s Women’s Clinic.

According to the Women’s Clinic Web site, the center offers emergency contraception to students and nonstudents from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For those who may not want to come in to the clinic, they can call the clinic. They will be asked for their medical history and current medications.

The clinic then calls the prescription into a Boynton-affiliated pharmacy, where the person who requested the contraception can pick it up.

If a person needs a pill while the clinic is closed, they can go to the pharmacy at The Quarry shopping center Target store or the Cub Foods grocery store in Roseville, Minn.

Emergency contraception should be used if birth control pills were missed or if sexual intercourse occurred without birth control, according to Boynton’s Web site.

Emergency contraception should also be taken if a condom is used incorrectly or if the condom breaks during sexual intercourse. Other situations include improper use of a contraceptive device called the diaphragm and after occurrences of rape, according to the site.

The morning-after pill works 85 percent to 95 percent of the time. It works best if taken as soon as possible after intercourse, but can be taken up to five days later, according to the site.

One of the main ways emergency contraceptives prevent pregnancy is by thickening the cervical mucus, which makes it hard for the sperm to swim to the egg. Also, the pill prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation in women, said Dr. Marilyn Joseph, medical director of Boynton Health Service and director of the Women’s Clinic.

“I think it’s very important to have (emergency contraception) over the counter to make it more accessible to the people who need it,” Joseph said.

According to the Web site for Plan B (the company that makes the morning-after pill), the most common side effects are abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, menstrual changes, dizziness, breast tenderness and vomiting.

First-year University student Latisha Harvey said she thinks it will be easier for women to get the morning-after pill without a prescription.

“I think if women want to get (the morning-after pill), it’s their decision,” Harvey said.

Post-secondary student Claire Bohmann said it’s OK to give women the pill if they are older than 17.

“It would be easy to regulate people, they can just show their license like they do for alcohol,” Bohmann said.

Making the pill available without a prescription prevents unwanted pregnancies, Bohmann said.

First-year student Liz Tracy said emergency contraception isn’t always beneficial.

“There are certain aspects of the pill that are dangerous,” she said. “They can have the same side effects as the birth control pill.”

Biology sophomore Kevin Lemm said he is against offering emergency contraceptive over the counter for ethical reasons.

“I’m against the pill because it is ending a life,” Lemm said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.