Plan B, the controversial “morning after pill,” is once again in the legislative spotlight, at both the state and federal level. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled a few weeks ago that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lower the legal age to buy the contraceptive without a prescription or parental consent to 17 years old.
Currently Plan B is only available without a prescription to those 18 years and older.
The FDA has 30 days to appeal the federal ruling, but if it stands, the new statute will greatly expand access to emergency contraception.
According to court documents, the FDA is also being asked to reconsider removing all age restrictions on Plan B, making the contraceptive completely over-the-counter.
Plan B was first introduced in 2000 and the FDA made it available without a prescription in 2006.
It consists of two pills taken 12 hours apart, and if taken within 72 hours of un-protected sex, can reduce the chance of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.
Plan B does not terminate pregnancy or protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
The federal ruling comes on the heels of more conservative state legislation that just passed through the House four weeks ago.
Arizona House Bill 2564 will allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense Plan B on the basis of moral objection.
When asked how the federal legislation would impact the state legislation, Mindy Rasmussen, executive director and CEO of Arizona Pharmacy Alliance said, “The Arizona state legislative measure has to do with upholding pharmacist’s right of conscience.”
“The two don’t impact each other per say, one is a right of conscience bill, and one helps broaden the accessibility of Plan B,” she added.
Because the contraceptive is most effective the earlier it is taken, this will be a major obstacle for those in rural areas trying to obtain Plan B if the legislation is also pushed through the State Senate.
The Arizona Pharmacy Alliance is remaining officially neutral on House Bill 2564, but Rasmussen said they have taken the position that pharmacists, “should be allowed to step aside, but not step in the way.”
“You need to make sure you’re still taking care of your patients and they still have access to the services and the products that they need,” she added.
If passed, Arizona will join 20 other states that have statues related to emergency contraception.