Kirsten Andersen

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Top Planned Parenthood official ‘disappointed’ Plan B hasn’t changed unplanned pregnancy rate

Kirsten Andersen
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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 2, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Plan B,” the “morning-after” contraceptive pill, which can be taken up to 72 hours after sex, was supposed to be the “magic bullet” for women who failed to plan ahead. 

But Planned Parenthood’s chief medical official admitted this week to NPR that despite the widespread availability of “Plan B,” the rate of unintended pregnancy in the U.S. has held steady, representing about 50 percent of all pregnancies. 

“While there’s a lot of data to show it can prevent pregnancy in individual women, we’ve all been disappointed that on the population level, it just hasn’t had the effect we hoped,” Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told NPR. “The unintended pregnancy rate hasn’t changed at all.”

Previously, Nucatola and others at Planned Parenthood had touted the high-dose hormone pill – which prevents pregnancy by blocking ovulation, or prevents a fertilized egg from implanting – as the definitive answer to stopping unintended pregnancy. 

Forgot to take your birth control pills?  No problem.  The condom broke?  No problem.  You’re twelve years old and afraid to talk to your parents about sex, but you’ve been having it anyway?  No problem.  “Plan B” was supposed to have you covered. 

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“Half of all pregnancies that happen in the U.S. every year are unintended,” Nucatola had told NPR in 2011, arguing in favor of the controversial HHS mandate requiring employers to pay for “Plan B” and other contraceptives, regardless of religious objections.  “If we could prevent an epidemic of this proportion, that should be justification enough that contraception is preventive care.”

While Plan B was initially approved in 1999 as a prescription-only option for adult women, earlier this year the Obama administration responded to lobbying and courtroom pressure by making the pill available over-the-counter for all ages in the U.S., even to children below the age of sexual consent.     

The drug is even handed out by nurses at high school health clinics, including in New York City, where it was given to more than 12,000 girls in 2012 alone. Under Obamacare’s HHS mandate, if you’re willing to go through your doctor to get “Plan B,” it will be paid for by insurance – with no out-of-pocket cost to you.

But as Plan B has grown in popularity and accessibility, some studies have shown that the pill actually does more harm than good, especially among younger women who may be more willing to engage in risky sexual behavior because the drug is available to them.  A British study found that after the U.K. started offering “Plan B” free to teens, teenage STD rates climbed 12 percent, even as teen pregnancy rates remained unchanged.  A study conducted in Washington state found that making “Plan B” available over-the-counter led to a statistically significant increase in gonorrhea diagnoses among both males and females there, while having no impact on abortion or unplanned birth rates.  And in both the U.S. and Sweden, abortion rates have continued to rise despite the morning-after-pill’s explosive popularity, a trend the head of the Swedish Association of Midwives called “very strange and saddening.”

But “Plan B’s” failure to create a world in which every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy isn’t the only disappointment “Plan B” has caused its supporters in recent weeks.  Dr. Nucatola’s admission comes on the heels of recent warnings from European pharmaceutical companies and the FDA that the pill may not work at all for women over 176 pounds, and becomes noticeably less effective at preventing pregnancy when a woman is just 165 pounds.  (The average weight of a woman over 20 years of age in the U.S. is 166.2 pounds.)

The controversial pill was also the recent subject of an undercover expose by Students for Life of America, in which drug store employees in several states were caught on tape selling the pills to a man posing as a 33-year-old who had raped a 15-year-old girl and didn’t want her parents to find out. 

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