STAFF EDITORIAL: Morning-after pill not OK for over-the-counter use

Emergency contraception has made a name for itself over the past three years. The drug, which can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, will usually prevent ovulation from occurring or will stop a fertilized egg from implanting itself on the uterine wall.

Planned Parenthood in Minnesota reportedly saw an increase in usage from 1,568 people in 1998 to 8,500 in 2001. The reason for the inflation is advertising. The three-year campaign put on by Planned Parenthood ended last summer. The more people who know about the product, the better.

People are not necessarily being more promiscuous or less careful – they are simply finding a solution to a possible problem. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, increased use of the morning-after pill could prevent half of the approximately three million unintended pregnancies that occur in the United States each year – 700,000 of them end in abortion. This pill is good, if used in moderation.

The FDA has approved the drug, is inexpensive, low risk, easy to prescribe and easy to take. All these reasons do not mean it should be available over-the-counter, as the director of Planned Parenthood has suggested. People should have the opportunity to use this in emergency situations but definitely need to have a prescription to do so.

If people had this powerful pill at their fingertips there would be too much temptation to overuse the drug and be careless with unprotected sex.

It is easy enough to be able to go to the doctor or emergency room to receive the pills within the estimated time period; an over-the-counter method is not necessary.

Doctors at medical clinics or emergency rooms should not be forced to make patients aware of this option, as in the case of sexual assault. It should be at the doctors’ discretion. But the more people who know about preventive methods the better.