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Should the ‘Morning After’ Pill Be Available to All Ages?

The idea of handing them out to 10 and 11 year olds with no questions asked seems callous and unfeeling.

Theodore Dalrymple


January 26, 2012 - 12:00 am
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The editorial states that the drug is safe, but a retired primary care physician, a self-proclaimed fan of evidence-based medicine, asks “what is the evidence that 10 or 11 year olds can safely use this relatively high dose?” He points out that “there aren’t that many pregnancies in that age group to have provided evidence that the medicine is truly safe for them.”

The editorial is worried that making the drug available over-the-counter to 17 years olds and over will penalise the poorest groups, since they will not have the kind of documents that prove their age. In any case, the pill costs $50, and another physician worried that the people who most needed the pill would not be able to afford it in any case. Other poor people might buy it unnecessarily, impoverishing themselves further.

Furthermore, wrote a doctor from France, despite relatively easy access to the pill in his country, and its cheapness in the rest of Europe, “unintended pregnancies among adolescents have reached alarming rates,” suggesting that there is “the need of a more comprehensive strategy in this area of preventive care.”

A doctor from Italy objected to the whole idea of preventive care because “pregnancy is not a disease.” Here, perhaps, it is worth mentioning that Italy has an enlightened law about adolescent sexuality, regarding sex between adolescents in a different and more favorable light than that between adolescents and adults.

The idea of handing out morning-after pills to 10 and 11 year olds with no questions asked seems callous and unfeeling. On the other hand, so does forcing them to go through with pregnancy or abortion because of delayed access to the pill. People can disagree on the matter without being moral monsters.

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His new book is Second Opinion: A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City.
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