Morning-after pill available to 17-year-olds without prescription - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Morning-after pill available to 17-year-olds without prescription

Dubuque (KWWL) -- Emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill", will now be available to teenagers as young as 17 without a doctor's prescription. That's because a federal judge ruled that the current age restriction, set during the Bush administration, was not appropriate.

Currently, women have to be 18 to get emergency contraception called the Plan B pill. The federal judge says the restriction made during the Bush administration was based on politics, not science.

Along with allowing 17-year-olds access without prescription, the judge ordered the FDA to look at lifting all age restrictions for Plan B.

Plan B is sometimes referred to as the "morning-after" pill. Experts say it's 79 to 85 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when taken within 72 hours. They also say it's used as emergency contraception if another method fails, but will not stop an existing pregnancy.

In Dubuque, Planned Parenthood clinic educators say once the change becomes official, 17-year-olds won't have to see a doctor or get an exam for the pill.

"Once it becomes official, when a patient comes in, we'll check their age with a driver's license to make sure they're 17, and then we can give them plan b without a prescription so they won't have to see a nurse practitioner or a doctor, we can have our front office staff give them plan b after checking their age," Rebecca Tekippe, Planned Parenthood education and community outreach specialist, said.

Tekippe says the Plan B pill is relatively well-known, and they get patient requests for the pill.  Plan B is not for everyday contraception, and she says the cost ($35 at the Dubuque clinic) is high enough that people don't usually rely on it regularly -- just for emergencies, as intended.

The FDA says it will not appeal the judge's decision and is prepared to approve the age change once the pill's manufacturer requests it, which will make it official.

KWWL spoke with Steve Brody of Dubuque County Right to Life. He says it's unfortunate that the government has decided to reduce the age.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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