Emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill, will soon be sold on drugstore shelves across the country instead of behind the pharmacy counter.
The Obama administration said last week it won’t fight a judge’s order allowing emergency contraceptives to be sold without a prescription or an age restriction.
In the upcoming months, the U.S Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve new labeling of the drug so it can be sold on store shelves.
Josephine Henn, a University of Minnesota senior, said she thinks it’s a “fantastic idea” and hopes to see the drug on shelves near campus, like at CVS Pharmacy.
Boynton Health Service currently carries Plan B One-Step in its pharmacy and, as soon as the packaging is updated, will move the drug from behind the counter, said Dave Golden, Boynton’s public health and communications director.
The biggest difference between now and when emergency contraception will be sold on shelves is that a customer no longer has to ask somebody for it, Golden said.
Amy Whitburn, a University senior and coordinator in the student group Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education (SHADE), said taking away the stigma will likely lead to increased use of the drug for those who really need it.
“It will likely take away the trepidation and shame they may have felt when having to ask a pharmacist for a drug like Plan B,” she said.
Removing the age restrictions
Currently, emergency contraception is available at pharmacies for women over the age of 17. Anyone 17 or younger needs a prescription to purchase the drug.
Katie Eichele, director of The Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education, said removing age restrictions and the need for a prescription will be helpful for sexual assault survivors looking to prevent pregnancy.
Previously, the age limits for emergency contraception caused barriers for sexual assault survivors affiliated with the University, she said, such as 16- or 17-year-old students in the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program.
In the 2011-12 school year, 306 female high school students were enrolled in the program, according to the PSEO office.
The Aurora Center used to work to find family members or older friends for young sexual assault survivors who wanted to take emergency contraception. Now, without the age restriction on purchasing the drug, those extra steps are no longer necessary.
“Since the age has changed,” Eichele said, “it has lifted some of the limitations.”
Critics of providing easier access to the morning-after pill say it will increase promiscuity.
Whitburn said this, and thinking women aren’t smart enough to protect themselves in other ways, is untrue.
“It’s been proven that young women really want to know that they have some sort of protection out there,” she said. “And if they can get it, they will use it.”
Kristina Stavenau, University senior and member of Students for Human Life, said she is against removing the age restrictions on emergency contraception because fewer adults will be involved in the decision-making process for girls under 17.
“There’re ways around involving parents at a teen clinic,” Stavenau said. “But if girls need to see a doctor before purchasing the morning-after pill, that’s at least one more person giving them some guidance.”
Of sexually active female college students in Minnesota, 13.8 percent said they used emergency contraception in Boynton’s 2012 College Student Health Survey. Nearly two-thirds of students who used the morning-after pill said they used it once, and 15 percent used it three or more times.
Henn said she doesn’t think making emergency contraception available without restrictions will change students’ behavior.
“People are going to have sex if they want to have sex,” she said. “Why not make it easier for everyone to be protected and safe the way they want to be?”
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.