The American Academy of Pediatrics has a surprising bit of advice in its new policy statement: doctors should prescribe underage teens emergency contraceptive pills like Plan B.
The heads of abstinence-advocates, natural healers, and skeptics at large are spinning.
Teen pregnancies in the US, while having dropped 44% between 1991 and 2010, remain five times that of France, 2 ½ times that of Canada, and higher than China’s and Russia’s. An unfortunate share of it is attributed to sexual assault, which are highest among teens and young adults according to the Justice Department’s Office on Violence against Women.
“We really can do better,” says Dr. Cora Breuner, a member of the AAP’s Committee on Adolescence. “By providing more education and improving access to contraception and more education about family planning, we can do better.”
About 80% of teen pregnancies in America are unplanned, and Breuner adds that babies of such pregnancies tend to experience behavioral and academic problems compared to babies born in planned pregnancies from older parents. Because emergency contraception pills work most effectively if taken within the first 24 hours, teens may feel more comfortable not talking to parents or gynecologists and instead using the preemptively prescribed pills for emergency contraception.
Dangers Associated with Emergency Contraceptives
The logic may be sound—better safe than sorry—but there are other implications to consider, though the gravity of each one compared to an unplanned pregnancy is entirely up to the individual.
Women taking birth control drugs with imitation progesterone (to include Yaz, Bayer’s Yasmin, Beyaz, Safyraland Angeliq) are, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, 150 percent more likely to develop blood clots. Other dangers to consider when taking birth control or emergency contraceptive pills include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Reduced or increased acne
- Nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting
- Emotional sensitivity and mood swings
- Irregular bleeding, spotting
- Decreased libido
- Benign liver tumors
- Yeast overgrowth and infection
- Vitamins B2, B6, and B12 deficiency
Because emergency contraception administered to underage teens would not be prescribed for cases like acne and hormonal imbalances (as with conventional birth control pills), the issue of using birth control to clear symptoms of deeper, underlying conditions such as poor liver or adrenal function is not at issue. The issue here is using emergency birth control for teens who, for poor planning, emotional unease, or sexual assault, are unable or unwilling to discuss courses of action with gynecologists or parents.
Arguably, instead of prescribing emergency contraception to teens, it might be worthwhile (and healthier) for parents and pediatricians to have regular, comfortable talks about sexual health and non-hormonal methods of birth control (like condoms).
Sadly, not all adults have the mindfulness or time befitting a good parent and not all children, environments, or circumstances prevent accidents, assault, or plain bad planning. Condoms do fail and sexual assault is a horrid reality, and emergency contraceptives then would be a boon for any scared, underage teen to have at hand.
And of course, is it morally correct to stop a pregnancy in its path? Just recently, some individuals said that newborn babies ‘aren’t people’ and it is therefore acceptable to kill them. They are calling for after-birth abortions. The writers say that newborn babies simply do not have a “moral right to life”. Is society slowly trying to better control population numbers?
Are emergency contraceptive pills OK? What do you think?