Friday, September 01, 2006

Education is needed before true reproductive freedom can occur

I feel a bit like an idiot because this only just occurred to me.

Why will women have access to over-the-counter (otc) Plan B before they have access to otc birth control? (I'm talking about pills, patches, etc. - not condoms.)

When I posted excitedly that Plan B was going to be sold otc by the end of the year, I took for granted the thought that everyone knows what Plan B is and what happens when one takes the pills. I assumed that people knew when it was proper to use it and why. But now I don't think that's the case.

I've gotten several emails from women asking me about Plan B and I've discussed it in person with others. Many women seem to have the impression that they can wait to take Plan B until after they get a positive pregnancy test result and then use the drug to terminate a pregnancy. That's not what Plan B does. It must be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. Plan B is used to prevent a pregnancy, not to end a pregnancy. Let me say that in another way: if you take Plan-B after you are already pregnant, it will not terminate the pregnancy.

Another misconception that I've encountered is that Plan B is the same as RU-486. It's not. RU-486 is taken within the first 63 days of pregnancy and terminates a pregnancy. Taking RU-486 means you are terminating a pregnancy/aborting a fetus. RU-486 is a non-surgical abortion.

My next concern is that women do not know what happens when you take Plan-B. For instance, taking Plan-B may cause a woman to have a strong period for up to several days. It can cause pain in the abdominal region, nausea, or vomiting. There are other side affects that are possible as well. You may not bleed right after taking Plan B but your next period might be heavier.

How does this relate to birth control? I've been reading the feminist blogosphere this week and some of those women have been talking to teenage girls. (Unfortunately, I don't have any of those websites to provide to you because I didn't keep track of the ones I've read.) Some of the teenagers are excited about the prospect of being able to forgo the use of condoms during sex because they can use Plan-B to ensure they don't get pregnant. The problem with that is two-fold.

1. Not using condoms will increase the risk of stds.

2. Using Plan-B as birth control rather than as emergency contraception could lead to increased abortion rates.

Nobody wants increased std rates. Nobody wants increased abortion rates. Women want safe, viable alternatives to abortion. We want control of our bodies and reproductive freedom - that is, the choice to decide what is best for us and our bodies and when it is best for us. Both birth control and Plan-B can provide that for us. (As can RU-486, but that's a post for another time.)

If females, ALL females (regarless of age,) are given easier access to birth control (in the form of pills or patches,) then abortion rates will decrease. (OTC access to the pill won't end std risk, but at least it will, in theory, slow down abortion rates.)

Which is why I do not understand why women will have access to otc Plan-B before they will have access to otc birth control. If more women are on birth control, less abortions will be needed. Not only that, but women are way more educated about birth control than they are about Plan-B. If women are truly planning to use Plan-B as a method of birth control or abortion, I don't see how this will slow abortion rates.

My point is that while I think it is great that Plan-B will be available otc, I think it's even more important to have access to birth control otc for the reasons I mentioned above.

Sources for information:
Plan B
Plan B prescribing information


Addie said...

great, great post... I agree with you whole-heartedly

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