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The FDA recently voted 17 to 15 to approve the morning-after pill for purchase by girls aged 15 and 16 without a prescription. A federal judge wants to remove the prescription requirement for girls even younger. Do these moves promote abortion?

"I just don't get it," says San Antonio, Texas mother of three teenagers Ingrid Thorasdottir. "If you want to buy Sudafed," the over-the-counter cold medicine, "you have to show an ID. If you want to buy spray paint, even if you are an adult, you have to show ID. But if you want to buy an abortion pill all you have to do is walk up to the pharmacy counter and ask for it."

But another San Antonio, Texas mother who asked to remain anonymous counters, "This pill will help the girls who need it most. Not every 15- or 16-year-old has a good relationship with their parents. Many girls who have unprotected sex will just want to make sure they are going to become pregnant. This is exactly what these girls need."

These two Texas mothers sum up the main points of view on the US Food and Drug Administration's recent decision to make the morning-after pill available to even younger teens.

Previously available to women and girls 17 and older without a prescription, the emergency contraceptive marketed as MyWay was approved for 15- and 16-year-old girls by the FDA even as a US federal judge rules that the product should be available to even younger girls without prescription and without parental oversight.

The Obama administration announced that it would appeal the federal judge's decision.

Many parents are upset that changes in the regulation of the drug make it possible for teens to get emergency birth control without any discussions with their parents. Women's rights advocates point out that not all girls have sex because they want to, and not having to discuss forced sex makes it easier for them to get the pill so they can avoid pregnancy.

The levonorgestrel pill is neither a contraceptive nor an abortion pill. It is not a contraceptive because it does not stop the fertilization of a released egg by a sperm. It only affects the implantation of the fertilized egg into the lining of the uterus.

Levonorgestrel is not, technically speaking, an abortion pill because it has no effect on the development of the embryo, only its implantation into the womb.

It does not induce abortion because it acts before there is pregnancy. And many of its users have only a vague understanding of how it works.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Bernard N, Elefant E, Carlier P, Tebacher M, Barjhoux CE, Bos-Thompson MA, Amar E, Descotes J, Vial T. Continuation of pregnancy after first-trimester exposure to mifepristone: an observational prospective study. BJOG. 2013 Apr. 120(5):568-74. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.12147. Epub 2013 Jan 24.
  • McCarthy M. US approves "morning after" pill without prescription for women 15 years or older. BMJ. 2013 May 3. 346:f2909. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f2909. No abstract available.
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