Pediatricians and doctors treating teenaged girls should consider writing "just-in-case" prescriptions for the morning-after pill, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said Monday.
It's the second recommendation in a week from a major doctors' group that would make contraception more widely available to women. Last week, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended making all birth control pills available over the counter. Federal policy requires girls under 17 to get a prescription for the morning-after pill. The AAP says many teen girls need emergency contraception, and their pediatricians should help make it easy for them to get it.
"Studies have shown that adolescents are more likely to use emergency contraception if it has been prescribed in advance of need," the group said in a policy statement.
"Despite significant declines over the past two decades, the United States continues to have teen birth rates that are significantly higher than other industrialized nations," it added.
Morning-after pills can prevent pregnancy -- they don't cause abortions -- if they are used within 72 hours of intercourse, says Kenneth A. Thompson, D.O. of Cownay Physicians Group. The most common form of emergency contraception is a high dose of a regular birth control pill such as Plan B and Plan B One-Step from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd or Next Choice from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. They generally sell for $10 to $80 and are most effective in the first 24 hours. At a Conway pharmacy, both cost around $50.
Emergency contraception for adolescents has been one of the most politically fraught areas in health care for almost a decade.
In 2005 the FDA declined to approve any over-the-counter sales of the Plan B morning-after pill, overruling its own advisory panel, as well as its own scientists. Last December the FDA reversed its stance when it approved over-the-counter sales with no age limits. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA a year ago, meaning women must present proof of age to get the pills.
We asked those on our NewsChannel 15 Facebook page what they thought about making birth control or the morning-after pill more readily available.
Jill Spring Lynch wrote, "Absolutely not!! Parent your children!! Quit looking for easy fixes!!! Most children that are sexually active at a young are missing the love and affection needed from one or both parents. Parents should just step up to the plate and PARENT!!"
Jen Jones-Grissett liked the idea. "I absolutely think it's a good idea. These kids today are raising themselves as it is and they are not equipped to deal with a child. In a perfect world teens wouldn't have sex but we don't live in that world. As long as it's regulated and not handed out like candy this could go a long way to stop unwanted pregnancy. It's just not right to bring babies into this world that won't be provided for and could be abused and not taken care of," she said.
In Horry County, teen birth rates have decreased dramatically in the past years but are still high compared to the state. Almost 28 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each month in Horry County. The teen birth rate decreased 11 percent from 1999 to 2009, according to the South Carolina Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention, but Horry County still has one of the highest teen birth rates in the state, with 39.7 births per 1,000 teens.
Locally, the South Carolina Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention is trying to encourage young people not to get pregnant through a program called "Not Right Now"
No one expects the pill to be sold without a prescription any time soon. A company would have to seek government permission first, and it's not clear if any are considering it.
The AP contributed to this report.