The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter access for the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step for women 15 and older with identification. The medication would be available on store shelves instead of behind the counter with a pharmacist, but only in stores with an on-site pharmacy. Teens younger than age 15 would still need a prescription.
Officials at the Guttmacher Institute, which works to advance sexual and reproductive health in the United States and worldwide, said in practical terms, many unnecessary roadblocks to access remain -- well beyond the targeted group of girls age 14 and younger.
Plan B One-Step is one brand of emergency emergency contraception that uses the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy by blocking ovulation and slowing the mobility of sperm to prevent contraception. It does not cause an abortion in women who are already pregnant, or harm a fetus, the Guttmacher Institute said.
"For instance, to comply with the age restriction, stores have to require proof of age via a valid picture ID from any woman who looks young enough to potentially be barred from purchasing Plan B without a prescription," officials at the Guttmacher Institute said in a statement.
"Not only will this requirement ensnare older teens and even women in their 20s, it also ignores the reality that even many older adolescents, let alone 15-year-olds, do not have driver's licenses or other government-issued forms of photo ID and would be unable to meet this requirement."
Guttmacher research showed very few young adolescent girls have sex -- only 0.3 percent of 10-year-olds, 0.6 percent of 11-year-olds, 1.3 percent of 12-year-olds and 3.4 percent of 13-year-olds.
However, 8.6 percent of female teens said they had sex by age 14, and there were 10,200 pregnancies among 14-year-olds in 2008, the vast majority unintended, the study found.
"Excluding this group from timely access to emergency contraception is counterproductive," Guttmacher researchers said.