Teen Girls and the Morning-After Pill

by Valerie Huber

An unpredictable tug-of-war between the courts and the Obama administration continues over the question of whether girls of all ages should have over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill. And it appears that the judgments of two courts are winning the battle. But young girls are set to lose.

Back in 2011, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius blocked morning-after pill access to teens below the age of 17 without a prescription. The president fully backed her decision, saying:

And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going into a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.  And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

In this rare case, conservatives agreed with the administration. But just this week, an appellate court swung wide the doors for any girl of reproductive age to access the pills without prescription, parental notification, or medical counsel.

While the National Abstinence Education Association, of which I am president, doesn’t take a position on contraception, we are deeply concerned that young girls could be at increased risk as a result of this court pronouncement. We are equally concerned with sex-education policies by the Obama administration that normalize sexual experimentation among teens and simplistically equate a young woman’s “empowerment” to her limitless access to contraception. Both of these decisions serve to reinforce the myth that teen sex is fun, harmless, and without consequence — as long as teens have complete access to contraception, whether before, during, or after sex. Nothing could be further from the truth. Two of the four most prevalent STDs among teens are transmissible even with the use of a condom . . . and the morning-after pill does nothing to reduce the transmission. We don’t know its physical effect on young teen girls, but we do know that the earlier they initiate sex, the more likely they are to suffer negative physical and emotional consequences.

I would think that by now that worn-out arguments that unnecessarily victimize these youngest girls of reproductive age would be removed from the conversation. I suggest we try something new. Teen girls fare better when they are empowered to realize that their value is not dependent upon their sexual prowess with their date on Friday night — and they are not well served when activist judges rush forward with policy decisions that ignore the best health interests of these often-vulnerable young women.

— Valerie Huber is the President/CEO of the National Abstinence Education Association.

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