The nation's largest group of pediatricians is urging its members to write prescriptions in advance to enable teenagers to have fast access to the so-called morning-after birth control pill.
"Emergency contraception is an important backup method for all teenagers," says a policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Advanced provision increases the likelihood that teenagers will use emergency contraception when needed, reduces the time to use and does not decrease condom or other contraceptive use."
Such medications as Plan B and Next Choice work best when taken soon after unprotected intercourse. Last December, over the objections of its own Food and Drug Administration, the Obama administration declined to fully overturn a Bush Administration policy from 2006 that limited access to the drugs without a prescription for those under age 18. (In 2009 the age was lowered to 17.)
The new policy, which will be published in the December 2012 issue of the organization's journal, Pediatrics, urges practitioners to counsel both male and female teens about the use of emergency contraceptives "as part of routine anticipatory guidance in the context of a discussion on sexual safety and family planning regardless of current intentions for sexual behavior."
The new policy takes into account — and rejects — the idea that practitioners may have a moral objection to what could be seen as tacit approval of underage sex or use of a product some consider to cause very early abortion.
"Pediatricians have a duty to inform their patients about relevant, legally available treatment options to which they object and have a moral obligation to refer patients to other physicians who will provide and educate about those services," the policy says. "Failure to inform/educate about availability and access to emergency-contraception services violates this duty to their adolescent and young adult patients."