FDA Approves Plan B for Over-the-Counter Sale

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Finally. The emergency contraceptive, which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sex, will be be available over-the-counter to women over 18 as soon as the drug’s maker reprints the packaging. This comes nearly three years after an independent FDA advisory committee voted overwhelmingly that Plan B is perfectly safe for over-the-counter sale without age restrictions.

As part of the FDA approval, the drug’s maker agrees to “conduct an education campaign … to raise awareness and knowledge levels about emergency contraception.” This is great news, because recent surveys have shown only one in five women is aware that there are effective methods of after-sex contraception.

Now for the bad news: Women under 18 will still have to get a doctor’s note to purchase Plan B for themselves, even though all research says that the drug can be safely and effectively used by teens. The age restriction means that Plan B will not be sold in convenience stores, but only at businesses with a licensed pharmacist. In this way, it also affects women 18 and up. Not every town in America has a 24-hour pharmacy, but most have a 24-hour gas station. Pharmacist refusals are likely to remain a huge problem.

And even though the FDA has finally caved to common sense, the Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit against the agency will continue. Depositions in the case show the White House intervened in the FDA’s supposedly independent decision-making process, and the Center has subpoenaed members of the Bush administration. This ain’t over yet.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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