What gives a federal judge the right to think that he or she has all the scientific knowledge that is necessary for practicing medicine?
Because ultimately, this ruling allowing Plan B One Step to be available over-the-counter for women of all ages makes no sense to me at all. As a matter of fact, I think it’s highly dangerous.
Currently, women younger than the age of 17 cannot purchase Plan B without a prescription from their doctor. But if this ruling stands, any young child – as young as 12 or 13 years of age – is eligible to buy this medication without any restrictions or getting advice from a physician, a pharmacist, and more importantly, from their parents.
I mean, a school nurse can’t even give an aspirin without parental consent, and yet a federal judge says it’s okay for a 13-year-old to get emergency contraception without anyone saying anything about it? That’s absurd.
It was not that long ago that these types of hormonal contraceptive pills were given under medical prescription only – because these are real hormones with real side effects. Yes, I understand that the complication rates are minimal, and I was okay with the FDA making this an over-the-counter product. But I’m certainly not okay with allowing a young child to have access to these medicines.
First of all, how is a 13-year-old girl supposed to tell the difference between emergency contraception and birth control? In other words, Plan B is only to be used in case of an emergency, in which you may feel as if your regular form of birth control failed and there was a window of time when you may have gotten pregnant.
Birth control is more of a lifestyle choice, which involves taking birth control pills every single day. This effectively prevents ovulation, which ultimately yields the medication’s contraceptive effects. Even with all these differences, there are still many college kids today who do not plan out proper birth control strategies, but rely on this emergency contraceptive pill every time they have unprotected sex. This is not how it was intended to be used, and if older women can’t understand how to use it, it’s going to be even harder for younger teenagers.
There are side effects with Plan B, which include nausea, headaches and menstrual changes. While menstrual change in a 13- or 14-year-old girl is very common, if you introduce Plan B into the equation, it could make the effects even worse. Plan B can stop a period from happening all together, or prompt a lengthy menstrual cycle – which has complications unto itself.
And by the way, emergency contraception is not 100 percent effective. Effectiveness ranges anywhere between 89 to 94 percent. And for people who use this type of emergency contraception, if they don’t get their period after three or four weeks, they better do a pregnancy test, because you may not have taken it during the indicated window – and you may very well be pregnant.
Given all of this information, you mean to tell me a child of 13 is going to have that maturity to deal with these types of protocols? I think not. What this ruling is doing is placing young girls in danger, not only due to the potential issues that can arise from using emergency contraception, but also because of what it teaches them – or more specifically – what it doesn’t. It teaches them nothing about protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, nothing about the strong values of sex education and nothing about respecting their bodies.
So to this judge, I say: stop practicing medicine, just as I don’t practice law. I hope the FDA makes the right decision and pushes back on this ruling.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.