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Commentary: Plan B risky for 17 year-old girls

  • Story Highlights
  • Mike Galanos: Mom and dad should help teens make decisions about Plan B
  • He also says society must support parents, not undermine their rights
  • Galanos: If birth control requires a prescription, so should Plan B
By Mike Galanos
HLN
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Editor's note: Mike Galanos hosts "Prime News" from 5-7 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays on HLN. "Prime News" uses the day's most powerful headlines as a starting point for diverse perspectives, spirited debate and your points of view.

Mike Galanos

Mike Galanos says parents should help teens make decisions about emergency contraceptives.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- In a matter of weeks, teenage girls, just 17 years old, will be able to get their hands on the "morning after pill" without ever talking to a doctor and without their parents ever knowing or being a part of this major decision.

Think of a 17-year-old girl. Most of the time she's a high school senior, still living at home with Mom and Dad. She still needs her parents in the tough times. But they will be cut out of a traumatic situation. All thanks to U.S. District Judge Edward Korman. Korman stated in his order, "The record shows that FDA officials and staff both agreed that 17-year-olds can use Plan B safely without a prescription."

Now keep in mind birth control pills require a doctor's prescription, but a drug that is more powerful doesn't? The effective ingredient in Plan B is the synthetic progestin levonorgestrel and this is also found in daily oral contraceptives. Some forms of birth control that require a prescription have levonorgestrel, while Plan B has significantly more of the synthetic hormone. Do we really want our daughters putting something like this in their bodies without a doctor? I still want Mom and Dad in on this.

Some argue that a girl can get an abortion without parental notification in some states, so why not Plan B? But just because those states got it wrong by leaving parents out of the loop doesn't mean others should follow suit. And the larger point is, society must help parents, not undermine their rights by keeping them in the dark on their child's life-changing decision.

Here's some perspective for you: In most states, minors can't get a tattoo, body piercings or go to a tanning salon without a parent's permission, but we are going to leave them alone to take Plan B.

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The "morning after pill," or Plan B, is 89 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when it's taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It's no surprise that Planned Parenthood applauds the now broader access to this drug, calling it "a strong statement to American women that their health comes before politics."

I question that, when we are cutting a doctor out of the decision to administer a powerful drug. Timing is essential to the drug's effectiveness, Plan B supporters say, so getting parents and doctors involved would unnecessarily delay the teen's ability to pop the pill the "morning after." Does it really take that long to get a prescription?

I also don't buy the argument that this will help with unplanned pregnancies and abortions. The Center for Reproductive Rights says making Plan B more widely available could reduce them, but The New York Times reports that since 18-year-olds were allowed to get Plan B without a prescription in 2006, there has been no evidence of it having an effect on the country's teen pregnancy or abortion rates.

But let's get back to the first point: We are making it available to high school girls. We're enabling teenagers to act carelessly with an easy way out. During a recent discussion on my show, Jackie Morgan MacDougall, supervising producer of the Web site Momlogic.com, said it best. "Teenagers are known for thinking they're untouchable and here we are saying that they can continue to do that and that there aren't any consequences." With Plan B, they can do it now and deal with it later.

Don't tell me high school dynamics won't play in here. The boyfriend will talk his girlfriend into unprotected sex with the promise of buying the "morning after pill" the next day. Any 17-year-old boy will be able to buy this drug, just as any 17-year-old girl will.

Yes, this could encourage unprotected sex and that means a greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases. What about the 17-year-old girl who may get Plan B for her 15-year-old sophomore friend? These are the kind of decisions high school girls will make.

Korman didn't stop there. He asked the FDA to consider making Plan B available to girls of any age. That's a slippery slope and what's worse, the ones who will fall are our daughters.

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Think of a 14-year-old girl taking Plan B without the love, support and guidance of parents and without the medical supervision of a doctor. Yes, teens have sex and difficult situations will arise, but should we open the door for our girls to go through this alone? That is not what is best for our daughters.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mike Galanos.

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