17-Year-Olds Denied Morning After Pill
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The "morning after pill" is, under law, available for women as young as 17 to purchase over the counter, without a doctor's prescription.
But, Boston University researchers recently found that nearly 1 in 5 pharmacies denies the medication to 17-year-old girls because of their age. That study sampled 943 drugstores in five major US cities. We put Charlotte to the test. We called the first 50 local pharmacies that came up on a generic Internet search. Posing as a 17-year-old, we asked to speak with the pharmacist, not a clerk or cashier.
28 Charlotte pharmacists told us we could purchase Plan B. 22 (44%) said no, citing reasons like "You have to be 18 or older, "You're too young," or "You have to have a parent with you."
"I'm really disturbed if this is the general climate in the Charlotte area. Does this say something about our region," wonders Rosemarie Tong is the director of UNC Charlotte's Ethics Center. She says pharmacists have an ethical obligation to know the law. She says, "I think they need to know the law and they need to do what the law says they can do. And I think they should be especially conversant on issues of reproduction."
"I feel obligated to apologize for the profession that not every single pharmacist is up to date," says Charlotte pharmacist Jesse Pike. He has been in the health care business for more than 40 years. He was not part of our survey. Pike wonders why the pharmacists we talked to seemingly didn't know the law. He says, "I would like to believe it is because we are so infrequently encountered with the situation."
Pike says his pharmacy handles about three requests a year for Plan B. Pike says Plan B is not an abortion pill. He says, "The drug actually mimics the birth control pill in making it more difficult for fertilization to occur."
However, he also points out the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy allows pharmacists to decline dispensing a medication based on personal beliefs under its "conscience concerns policy," but, "Their responsibility is to direct the patient, to help the patient locate that medication and that provider who will accommodate the request," says Pike.
Of the 22 Charlotte pharmacists who denied us access to Plan B, none told us where we could get it. Tong says young women who are faced with an incorrect denial of access to Plan B should push back. She says, "Maybe that push back is the final act of courage that a young girl needs to take today."
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration said that Plan B should be available over the counter to all girls of reproductive age. The Secretary of Health and Human Services overrode that decision and ordered the drug be kept available over the counter for girls 17 and up.
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