Younger Teens May Get Birth Control Pill; Doctors Push for Easy Access

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Pediatricians should actively counsel teens about emergency contraception and even provide them with prescriptions or products ahead of time, to ensure they have the pills if they need them, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in a policy statement released online Monday.

AAP members also are urged to advocate lifting the age restriction for these products. Currently, girls 16 and younger need a prescription to obtain the morning-after pill, as these products are sometimes called.

Products such as Plan B, Plan B One-Step and Next Choice are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, but they can work even if taken five days later.

Several of the AAP's policy positions were stated softly in its 2005 emergency contraception policy, said Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, a member of the trade group's Committee on Adolescence.

The new language is stronger, she said, because it went through more than 15 AAP committees - including those on safety and child abuse - for more than a year. The result is a well-thought-through, researched and supported document, said Dr. Breuner, who is an attending physician at Seattle Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The recommendation that pediatricians proactively consider giving advance prescriptions or actual emergency contraception products to patients stems from research showing that teens will use the pills if they have them, said Dr. Breuner. The goal, of course, is to encourage sexually active youths to use regular birth-control methods, she added.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy supports wider access to all birth-control products, said Bill Albert, its chief program officer.

Parents and others may understandably have concerns about emergency contraception for younger teens, but those concerns seem to be in conflict with the best science that we know, he said. …