Within several weeks you could go to Walgreens to get some cough medicine, vitamins, bandages...and emergency contraception?! Yup! Late last week a judge ruled in favor of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowing the Plan B pill, also known as the Morning After Pill, to be sold over-the-counter (OTC). As it is now, young women who are under 17 years old need to get a prescription for the drug, while women 17 and older can get the drug simply by requesting it from the pharmacy and showing their ID.
Plan B One-Step, which is sold as an emergency contraceptive and has very few side effects according to the FDA, stops a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterine wall, which ultimately boils down to no pregnancy. The theory behind using the pill is that, when primary contraception fails (i.e., a condom breaks), a woman still has an option of preventing pregnancy. The catch is that you must take the pill within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.
Psychologically speaking, this is a triumph and a problem. As a psychologist who treats a lot of women with trauma histories (particularly rape and incest), I see the devastation that sexual violations bring. It is even more terrifying to think that your rape experience could result in a pregnancy. In this vein, the Plan B pill might offer some relief to women who are already traumatized.
Additionally, the drug offers an option to teenagers who have been sexually violated by male figures who still live in the home. As it stands, if Sandy's father rapes her and she becomes pregnant, she would have to get her mother or her father's permission to get access to this drug. While it would be a good thing to report this abuse, it means that she has to deal with the repercussions of her disclosure.
Interestingly, a lot of concerns prohibit children from reporting their sexual abuse. Survivors of childhood sexual trauma have discussed fears like nobody will believe me (not even my mother) or the threats that dad made will come to fruition (i.e., "I will kill you if you tell."). Other concerns include worrying that others will blame them, fearing that dad will go to jail (often survivors of abuse love their abusers, but want the abuse to stop) or worrying that the family will be broken up.
However, there are some downsides to making this drug so readily available. People tend to change their behavior when they realize that things can be reversed. One concern is that women who know that they have this option will be more careless (or carefree) when it comes to having protected sex. In other words, is this pill going to become the new abortion? After all, there are some women who use abortion as a method of contraception.
Another concern is that women will miss the allotted time period (72 hours) and take the drug after the fertilized egg has already implanted. What this drug does to an unborn child has yet to be determined?
These are only questions that will be answered with time. In the meantime, we can celebrate for triumph for survivors of rape and incest and hold our breath for the drawbacks of this issue.
Psychology Is Everywhere!