Debate over morning-after pill for teens divides

New ruling allows 15-year-olds to buy without prescription.
Associated Press
May 5, 2013


Allison Guarino understands the controversy over new rules allowing 15-year-olds to buy the morning-after pill without a prescription. But as someone who teaches pregnancy prevention to ninth-graders in Boston, she thinks lowering the age will "help the girls who need the help the most."

"Some girls might not have a good relationship with their parents," she said, "or they had unprotected sex and they don't know what to do."

On the other side of the issue are folks like Brenda Velasco Ross, who says the new rules infringe on her rights as a parent.

"It breaks my heart and saddens me and really angers me," said Ross, stepmom of four, including 12- and 13-year-olds in Fullerton, Calif. "If you have to buy Sudafed, you have to show ID. When I buy spray paint for a project for my daughter, I have to show my ID. It just baffles me that, with this, which has to do with pregnancy and being sexually active, I don't have to be involved. That to me just violates my rights as a parent to have guidelines and parameters for my children."

The two opinions reflect some of the issues in the debate over new rules issued last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which lowered the age for buying the drug without a prescription from 17 to 15. In April, a federal judge, Edward Korman, said there should be no age restrictions at all. The Obama administration said it wants to maintain the prescription requirement for those under 15 and will appeal the judge's ruling.

Guarino, 19, a college freshman majoring in public health and political science at Boston University, said she encounters a lot of ignorance on issues related to sex and pregnancy. "I would encourage any young person to go talk to their parents or a doctor, but that's not the reality," she said.

Jennifer Morgan, 18, a native of Somerville, Mass., who attends college in Pennsylvania, said she's not sure she supports eliminating the age limit entirely, but "I think it's fine for a 15-year-old. Not every girl has the privilege of being able to go talk to her mother in a crisis like that. Because time is of the essence, and if a girl in that situation and that age doesn't have any other support, I feel like it's OK."

Morgan recently completed a stint on a leadership team for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and added that while abstinence is an ideal, "not every teen is going to stay abstinent."

Samantha Bailey-Loomis, 16, who recently founded a Students For Life chapter at her high school in Branford, Conn., opposes the concept of the morning-after pill in the same way that she opposes abortion. "My mom had me when she was 17," she said. "If this was available when she was young, I wouldn't exist. I wouldn't be able to make the difference I am in the community today." Loomis said girls who are worried they might be pregnant should talk to their parents about it, and if they can't, should seek help from organizations that can provide the support they need.

Dianne Sikel, who volunteers in a juvenile probation program in Phoenix, said dropping the age limit is "a move in the right direction." She added that it's easy to tell kids to use condoms, "but it doesn't always work out that way."

"These pills being available to teens are far better of an option than having a young couple being forced to become parents, for a young girl, who made a bad choice one evening, who may be forced to abort, or ultimately having to give up a child for adoption," said Sikel, a parent of two boys, 13 and 16.

Sophia Martin, who teaches at a high school in Northern California where many students continue their education after being expelled from other schools, said she "can understand how upsetting it is to think your kid might engage in unprotected sex and then get the morning after pill without your knowledge. But to me the core reason to abolish any kind of age limit is that there are young people who are in situations in their families where they can't turn to their parents."

Martin said some girls become "pregnant not because they chose to have sex. It's such a hard situation for them to talk about."

But Andrew Bay, 19, who's finishing up his freshman year at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., says he thinks making the morning-after pill so easily available "almost encourages even younger children to have unprotected sex." If he had to put an age limit on getting the drug without a prescription, "It should probably be 18. At least at 18 you're considered mature enough to make medical decisions on your own."

Denny Pattyn, founder of Silver Ring Thing, which promotes chastity until marriage and encourages young people to wear purity rings to symbolize their commitments, said he worries that allowing younger teens to get the morning-after pill without a doctor or parent's knowledge is going to increase the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. "It's incredibly irresponsible," he said. "These kids are getting these diseases and they don't even know they're getting them."

Dr. Cora Breuner of the American Academy of Pediatrics said headlines about the age limit have prompted some families to broach the topic of safe sex. Even if parents don't bring it up, teens are hearing about it via social media.

"I know this in my own practice, there are a lot more conversations between parents and their children about this decision," said Breuner, an adolescent health specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital. "This will prompt a conversation nationally that can help at so many levels."




Probably oughta package the MAP with some complimentary antibiotics for the likely increase in STDs.


I really don't see a problem with the MAP unless, it has some severe side effects like most pharm drugs do.


"Severe side effects": Like the occasional times that it fails to work as advertised or not used properly and there's a “bun in the oven”? :)

Maybe the 15 yr. olds can make extra "lunch money" by selling it to the younger ones?


Worst case scenario, yes Contango. ;)


15 is too young to prevent pregnancies, but we provide guns to 5 year olds, who then shoot their little sisters.

Anything wrong with this picture?


Specious argument.

* The parents BOUGHT the weapon.

* Are you suggesting that 5 yr olds also be allowed to purchase MAPs OTC?

Rich Close

Strange, 15 year olds can commit murder to cover their sins but adults can't buy a Big Gulp in NYC.


Best comment on here in a long time.


Exactly rich! If people don't see something wrong with this their moral compass is really off. We need less, smaller government in the U.S. the morals and values of this country are in a rapid decline and some day soon it's to going to bite us in the butt. We are also to socially acceptable of gays, in 50 years from now I can picture idiots rallying for their right to have sex an marry their pets. You can give them a inch an they take a mile. It's going to progress to unimaginable behavior. Why can't people just be normal? Deep down we all know what's right and wrong. Doing the right thing takes a stronger person and the world is filling up with weak minded folks.

Raoul Duke

I'm calling for NO government so we can put these sinners in their place.

The Big Dog's back

Yeah, why can't we all be right wingnuts?


I agree with you huronguy! We should go back and rewrite all laws and base them off of the biblical code of conduct. That way we can beat a woman to death for not being a true virgin when she marries someone and we are also allowed to beat them if they get out of line. I also lkmed that bit on dowries that the Bible had going on as well.

While we're at it we should go back to public stoning as a death penilty. I always liked that one.

We should also look into adjusting the price of the dowry to keel up with the inflation rate from 2000 years ago... I don't think many women can be bought for the price of 2 goats and a fretted calf anymore... they might be more expensive than that now...

I surly hope your comment was a joke and we all missed the sarcasm...

Raoul Duke

He wants to go back to the pinnacle of morality~the 50's, when women, gay people, black people and dogs all knew their place, and the white man had a Marine Corp haircut and demanded respect.


I like how the woman from Cali. Says it infringes her rights to be a parent and then gives examples of how she needs the law to back up the rules in her house... I guess it does take a village.

OTC for the MAP at 15 is pushing it, but I'd rather my tax dollars go towards a single prescription of penicillin than 18 years of benefits when these idiot kids have kids themselves that they cannot afford.


Do it.. the less I have to shell out my tax dollars for baby factories the better. Hell, start them at 12 or 13 they are plenty that age who are getting pregnant many of them on purpose.


It amazes me that people are still confusing the morning after pill with the abortion pill.


Absolutely Informed! It is taken under the pretense that conception MIGHT have occurred.... not that it DID.


And it doesn't amaze me that most people that agree with this are those "parents" who don't care because their so selfish or handed the kids off to the grandparents to raise, among many more issues that I don't have time to get into. Of all the laws and regulations they have nowadays you would think a credit check, proof of income and references would be in order to have a baby. They let low lives have kids but good adopted parents must fit certain criteria like I mentioned above


I am a proud mother of 5 count them 5 daughters- the oldest is 28 and the youngest is 15. I have raised them with the knowledge that we are accountable for any decisions we make. I communicate with my children and have shown my daughters by example I am NOT an intolerable,bigoted person who assumes that only irresponsible young women pop babies out and hand them off to others to raise.I am also prochoice,believe in equality for all and have respect for myself. I very much agree with providing the MAP to young women- no questions asked! Because unfortunately, there are parents who do not have an open communication with their daughters. And also, what if the young lady who may request the MAP pill has been date raped or molested by a family member and is too ashamed to tell anyone? I work with adolescents everyday so I am more familiar with the scenarios that some of these young women are exposed to.The MAP is NOT intended to be a daily birth control pill! Do your research and educate yourself!


BRAVO happyfeet!! Your daughters are lucky to have you as their example!


In a perfect world no young woman would need to buy the MAP, but we don't and never have. We are lucky to live in this century where women, and even young girls, don't have to live their entire lives with the consequences of a mistake.

There you go again

Anybody else think our nation's scruples have gone downhill?

Raoul Duke

Maybe it's just the way you view the world that has gone downhill.

Finn Finn

Yes, "There you go again", scruples have definitely gone downhill. The further people get from what's right and decent, the easier it becomes for them to justify things like this. By and large, the majority of it is the by product of self-centeredness and lack of discipline. (Of course, you don't dare say that aloud because then you'll be attacked as being 'holier than thou'.)

thinkagain's picture

It was legal to kill Jews in Nazi Germany and Ukrainians in Stalin’s Russia. Those massacres ended about 40 million lives, Roe vs Wade has massacred over 50 million.

You go Baby Killers, you’re #1.

thinkagain's picture

Where’s the article about Kermit Gosnell? Oh that’s right, he’s the unsung hero of the Left.