by Steven Ertelt
November 8, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Pharmacies across the United States will begin selling the morning after pill over the counter next week. It will mark the first time the Plan B drug has been available without a prescription since the Food and Drug Administration allowed over the counter sales in August.
The drug can be sold to anyone over the age of 18. Though teenagers will still need to get a prescription to use it, pro-life groups are worried that a teen’s parents, siblings or older friends will purchase the drug for them to use.
The morning after pill must still be dispensed by a pharmacist so it won’t be available in retail stores with pharmacies during hours it is closed. The prices of the drug will vary with Wal-Mart charging just $35 and CVS pharmacies selling Plan B for $45.
Because of the change to over the counter status, insurance plans will no longer cover the morning after pill unless the consumer first gets a prescription from a doctor.
The change will begin to place more focus on pro-life pharmacists or those who have moral problems dispensing a drug that could cause abortions in limited circumstances or encouraging teen sexual behavior with a pill that provides no protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Dakota have laws that specifically allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs like the morning after pill and other state legislatures may consider similar conscience clauses next year.
Some companies, like Wal-Mart, may be forced to examine their corporate policies, though the largest retailer already has a "conscientious objection policy" to allow pharmacists to refer customers to someone else if they don’t want to be involved in selling the morning after pill.
Marcia Greenberger, copresident of the pro-abortion National Women’s Law Center, says her group is concerned that pharmacists will want to opt-out of selling the drugs.
"We’re concerned that the person staffing the pharmacy counter will put an impractical barrier in a woman’s way that wouldn’t be there if this was available on drugstore shelves," she told US News and World Report.
Groups like hers may push for more laws like those in California and Illinois that force pharmacists to dispense all drugs, even those that violate their moral beliefs. However, pharmacists have taken the Illinois mandate, put in place by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, to court.
Pro-abortion groups claim the Plan B drug will reduce the number of abortions, but a Utah doctor who was a member of a Food and Drug Administration’s advisory panel says that’s not the case. He also indicated that the Plan B drug can work as an abortion agent in certain circumstances.
Dr. Joseph Stanford, associate professor of family and preventative medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said the morning after pill won’t be as effective as its maker claims.
He told the Deseret News that studies he and fellow researchers have done show a lower effectiveness rate than the 89 percent Barr Laboratories claims.
"We did more a precise meta-analysis that shows it’s effective only 72 percent of the time, and even that number is optimistic," he indicated.
He also told the newspaper that studies from Europe, China and the United States show that the morning after pill does not reduce abortions. In fact, new abortion figures in England and Scotland show that abortions have reached their highest point ever despite over the counter sales of Plan B.
"In all cases, they found there was no effect on abortion rates and unintended pregnancy rates," he says.
Despite the FDA prohibition on teens, abortion advocates have filed a lawsuit seeking to get the courts to allow the morning after pill to be sold to them as well.