Last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally overcame intense political pressure from the Bush White House, and allowed Emergency Contraception (marketed as Plan B) to be offered without a prescription.

This decision was delayed for three years even though the recommendation from the FDA’s own scientific advisory panel was near unanimous.

Plan B, made from the same hormones as birth control pills, represents an important second chance at birth control for American women. If taken as soon as possible within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, the pill is highly likely to prevent pregnancy. A second pill included in the pack must be taken 12 hours later.

At Planned Parenthood, we recommend that all women of reproductive age who wish to avoid pregnancy buy a dose of Plan B and keep it in the medicine cabinet — just in case.  One never knows when a condom will slip off or break, when you might forget to take a birth control pill, or when a moment of passion trumps common sense.

Remember, Plan B offers zero protection from sexually transmitted diseases and is no substitute for responsible birth control practices.

The drug is available at reduced or no cost to women who cannot afford the pharmacy price (currently between $40 and $50) through Planned Parenthood and other providers..  Unfortunately, one concession was made by the FDA to the Bush agenda, that being that the drug can only be purchased over-the-counter by adults 18 or older. That means you may have to show a drivers license or other identification to buy it, but you do not need a prescription. (The logic of this rule must be that teens are better prepared to deal with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy than adults, right?)

The good news for teens is that they can still obtain Plan B without an advance prescription by visiting Planned Parenthood.

People often give me a strange look when I talk about the many ways that the pro-life movement is shifting from simply being an anti-abortion movement to being an anti-contraception movement.  But the attacks on safe and legal contraceptives like Plan B are becoming more frequent.  It was only 45 years ago that in some states contraception was illegal even for married adults.  Those who would make it illegal again are on the move.

— VINCE HALL

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