Plan B, otherwise known as the “Morning After Pill” is in the news again. Recently a Federal judge lifted the FDA’s restrictions that prevented women younger than 17 from obtaining the medication over-the-counter without parental permission. If the ruling—which is surely going to be challenged—stands, young women will have another option in preventing pregnancy.
I am familiar with Plan B. Years ago it was called MAP, and was dispensed in the Planned Parenthood clinic where I worked for ten years. We dispensed it to any patient who needed it, without asking for proof of age. We took a medical history to rule out any contraindications, as we did for all hormonal contraception. We gave extensive instructions in how it was used—it was a two-dose process back then—what side effects the patient could expect, and strongly encouraged the patient to begin using a more reliable method of contraception, which most patients did. Looking back, I can see that the process we used, as well-meaning as it was, was kind of a hassle. I applaud, therefore, the decision to make Plan B over-the-counter.
The reasons those women gave for needing MAP were…well…all over the map. Broken condoms, forgotten birth control pills, no condoms available, male partner who promised to withdraw in time (but did not) were the most common reasons given. I’m sure there were some reasons that went unspoken as well, involving non-consensual sex and partner abuse. Regardless of the reason, we dispensed it. No judgments were offered to the patient who had taken the responsible route to protecting herself against unintended pregnancy.
It amazes me, then, when 20 years later I read and hear all the vitriol against the medication, those who dispense it, those who need it, and the motives of those of us who agree with making it available to any woman who needs it. Much of this negativity is given by people who go on record as being morally, ethically, and spiritually opposed to abortion. This, I admit, baffles me.
To those I would like to offer another option: Plan A.
Plan A is not a pill or a device. It requires no visit to a pharmacy. In a nutshell it is this:
- Let’s teach our sons and daughters that they are beloved children of God. Let’s give them the self-esteem and confidence so that they do not need to find love and approval with sexual partners before they are emotionally and spiritually ready to handle it.
- Let’s talk to our children, or those children with whom we are in contact, about their goals, dreams, and wishes for the future. Let’s remove the roadblocks that keep our children (and other children) from succeeding and being the best person they can be.
- Let’s support women who find themselves–despite everyone’s best efforts–in an unintended pregnancy . Let’s support them and love their babies, not just while they are in the womb, but in their whole childhood.
- Let’s make more of an effort to provide every child with an excellent education, therefore increasing the chances that the child will succeed in whatever calling they may have on their life.
- Let’s make a pact that no child will go hungry or unsheltered. Let’s agree together that children shouldn’t be sentenced to poverty on the basis of their parents’ behavior.
- Let’s offer our young people comprehensive education on sexuality and reproductive health. Let’s get over our own embarrassment or hang-ups in order to do this. For those who decide to be sexually active, let’s move heaven and earth to provide them with contraception and protection against STIs. This starts with telling them the truth without using scare tactics.
- Let’s make the need for Plan B obsolete.
I’d like to see those who rail against Plan B (and all of the rest of us) put their (our) money and effort and time where their mouth is and choose Plan A. But until we as a culture decide to go with Plan A, I’ll be glad that Plan B exists.