WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Federal Drug Administration will consider on Wednesday whether the Morning After Pill should be available over-the-counter to minor girls of any age.

“Hopefully, it will be right on the shelves between the condoms and the pregnancy tests,” said Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

While birth control advocates hail the decision as an advance for women’s rights, family organizations are concerned that widespread availability of the drug will erode parental rights, violate the consciences of pro-life store employees, and place young women at risk for health problems or sexual exploitation.

Currently, Plan B is available without a prescription only to girls age 17 and up. However, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which owns the pill’s manufacturer, has asked the FDA to change the status of the drug to over-the-counter to girls of all ages.

The morning after pill, or Plan B, contains progestin, a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone. It is a highly concentrated dose of the same hormone in the standard birth control pill. If taken within three days of sexual contact, it reportedly prevents or terminates 89 percent of pregnancies. 

The FDA has until Wednesday to act. The agency faces a December 13 contempt hearing after a judge told the agency to reconsider the drug’s availability to minors.

Janice Shaw Crouse, a Senior Fellow at Concerned Women for America’s http://cwfa.org think tank, said allowing children to purchase the drug without parental knowledge or consent undermines their ability to raise their own children. She added, “Even young children would be subject to an unscrupulous man who wants to take advantage of their vulnerability.”

She added that forcing store employees to distribute a potential abortifacient would represent a “complete disregard for the religious beliefs of people who feel very strongly about taking innocent human life, who must choose between following their consciences and losing their jobs.”

Although WebMD notes the pill may prevent ovulation or fertilization, the medical website acknowledges, “this type of emergency birth control prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in your uterus by altering its lining.”

Recent evidence from Europe suggests Plan B does little to reduce overall pregnancy rates but may encourage riskier sexual behavior. A study of the United Kingdom’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy program, in which the government distributes the Morning After Pill to teenagers free of charge, found that pregnancy rates of minors under 16 remained static, while sexually transmitted diseases increased by 12 percent.

The hormone also appears to suppress the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. A 2002 study conducted by McMaster University in Toronto found that lab mice given progesterone were 100-times more likely to develop an HIV infection than those not given the drug.

Nonetheless, women’s use of the morning after pill has doubled since it was granted over-the-counter status for women 18 and older in 2006.

The FDA approved the drug by prescription only in 1999. Its manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals, began pressing for over-the-counter status in 2003. The federal agency approved a two-pill version for over-the-counter sale to adult women in 2006. In 2009, the FDA lowered the age to 17. The same year, U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman of New York ruled that the agency had to re-examine whether the drug could be made available to all minor girls, as well. 

If approved, the over-the-counter status would apply only to Plan B One-Step, not to its generic version, Next Choice.