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Posted on Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 9:50 a.m.

Plan B: Contraceptives for kids?

By Wayne Baker

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing contraceptives.

Having a Plan 'B' is a good strategy — what you will do if your first plan doesn’t work out. Plan B is the name of a find-my-phone app that can help me find my Android if I misplace it. Plan B is also the brand name of an emergency contraception or morning-after drug for use after unprotected intercourse.

My question today is: Do you agree with a new decision by a federal judge that will make Plan B available over the counter to anyone — even children in elementary school? Is this a good idea?

Plan B, and other brands using the same active ingredient (a synthetic hormone called levonorgestrel), have been on the market for some time. What’s new is the decision last week by Edward R. Korman, a senior judge in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. Prior to his ruling, Plan B was available to women over the counter — but girls under the age of 17 could get it only with a prescription. The ruling does away with the age restriction, and allows the morning-after pill to be sold to anyone without a prescription, like aspirin. (Read the entire decision here.)

The judge instructed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conform to his ruling within 30 days. It effectively overturns the order by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to set age restrictions. Obama endorsed her decision.

As quoted in the judge’s memorandum, the president said, “the reason [Secretary Sebelius] made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drug store, should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to by a medication that, potentially, if not properly used, could end up have an adverse effect.”

The judge concluded that the “adverse effect” argument was simply “an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their right to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.” The Secretary’s decision was “political motivated” to avoid raising the ire of religious groups in an election year. It has little scientific basis, the judge opined, citing the opinions of distinguished scientists.

Opponents worry that lifting the age restriction will promote promiscuity and be a threat to public health. Supporter hail the decision as a victory for reproductive rights and the realities of the adolescent experience.

Do you think lifting age restrictions is a good idea?

Do you worry about negative consequences?

Do you see this as a victory for women’s rights?

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

I agree with the previous comments. It should not be restricted, what consequences?, should be "victory" for human rights. Why are the questions phrased in slanted opinion? No matter how they would be answered, the answer would be continuing the obvious prejudice of the writer.


Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

Or was doing this to make them seem more credible?


Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

And why does he use the form of address "Dr."? While not inaccurate, it, too is misleading and slanted.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

Just like with the Supreme Court case on same-sex marriages, you are asking your readers whether a decision made by a judge is a good or bad thing. Judges are there to play the crucial role in our republic to decide what is legal or illegal without regards to what is right or wrong or a good idea or best for women. There is no point in having judges if you want their legal opinions to conform to the majority opinion, and there is no point in having a Congress if judges can legislate from the bench. Please, if you're going to ask your readers for their opinion on the consequences of a judicial ruling, don't ask them if they agree with the ruling. They aren't judges or lawyers, they are common folk with opinions not rooted in the law or the Constitution. They want the government to do what they want by any means necessary and give no thought to why there are three branches of government each with separate powers. You are a business professor at one of the best schools in the country, I'm sure you are well versed in internal controls and segregation of duties as they relate to business. The Constitution is the US's internal controls, but it is there to encourage stability and prevent governmental power grabs rather than prevent fraud error and theft. If a judicial ruling benefits women but is not correctly legally decided, it is not a victory for women's rights, it is a loss for everyone's rights. Besides, this case has nothing to do with women's rights, lifting the age restrictions allows men to buy it OTC too. Why separate us into groups?

tom swift jr.

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

Putting Dr. Baker forward on this site as some sort of neutral academic infuriates me. His statement in this article "My question today is: Do you agree with a new decision by a federal judge that will make Plan B available over the counter to anyone — even children in elementary school? " is the whole point of his writing this. Nobody behind this piece is interested in presenting facts and eliciting the reader's opinion, the only goal of the article is to cause an "Oh my God, they are selling birth control to 5 year olds!!!!! Grab the pitchforks!" response. The right wing is becoming adept at selling their goods.

Sarah Rigg

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

Lots of OTC items can cause adverse effects MUCH worse than some oral contraceptives. Tylenol can cause liver failure if taken in large doses, for instance. Plan B side effects tend to be changes in the bleeding cycle, plus possibly some nausea and vomiting, but these last two can be lessened by not taking it on an empty stomach.