My first trip for a Plan B pill was a cold, dreary bus ride up Lake Shore Drive to the Planned Parenthood in downtown Chicago. I remember looking out over the frozen lake, wondering what would happen if I couldn’t get the pill that afternoon. I was 15, and not ready to deal with making the decision between pregnancy and abortion. (At 22, I can confidently say that I’m still not.)
Luckily, as a teen I was informed enough to know what to do. It took me two attempts to make it to the center when it was open—closed every other Sunday—and the longer I waited, the less effective I knew the pills would be. I can’t imagine how much terror would have been avoided had I been able to stop into the 24 hour Walgreens with my boyfriend immediately after the condom broke.
But increasing access of emergency contraception for teens is not just about making a girl feel less anxious about taking the pills; it’s about preventing pregnancies. Last March, a United States District Court made emergency contraception (EC) for 17-year-olds available over the counter, as it is for adult women.
In his blog on AOL’s Daily Finance, Russell Turk, M.D., an OB/GYN in Connecticut, made the argument to make it available to girls as young as 13. According to some individuals, giving EC to young teens is outrageous. Therefore, to get a pill they need a prescription—but this doesn’t make any sense, he says, because the pill is safer than the alternative. “Widespread availability of the morning-after pill has the potential to prevent unplanned pregnancy and abortion – both of which pose far greater risk and hardship to teen girls.”
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The longer a woman waits to get the pill, the less effective it will be. Therefore the more hurdles we put between EC pills and the young women that need them, the more likely it is for a young teen girl to be faced with the choice of abortion or risky pregnancy.
Turk goes on to reveal how the law further contradicts itself.
“The irony is that once a girl is pregnant, she’s legally considered an ‘emancipated minor’ – which means she can make medical decisions of a much more serious nature without adult supervision. And yet we can’t trust her to make a decision that will keep her from getting pregnant?”
It will be tough to get past the stigmas that prevent legislation from opening up access, but it’s time to make EC available for all teens. A lonely bus is no place for a scared girl.