In the St. Paul school district, like many other school districts around the country, students need the permission of a parent or guardian to take medication during the school day.
When it comes to getting ears pierced in Minnesota, a minor needs the consent of a parent, who must be present during the procedure.
It’s easy to understand the logic behind both requirements: Parents should be involved in decisions that potentially affect the health and well-being of their children.
All of which makes the recent decision of a federal judge in New York to lift age limits on purchases of over-the-counter “emergency contraceptives” even harder to comprehend. The judge, Edward Korman of Brooklyn, ruled April 5 that the federal Food and Drug Administration must make the so-called “morning-after pill,” or Plan B, available to all women regardless of age.
So, now, a middle-schooler or high school teen who needs parental permission at take an aspirin at school to relieve a simple headache or get her ears pierced on her birthday can simply walk into a pharmacy and walk away with pills that contain powerful hormones to put into her body without her parents’ knowledge and without, in many cases, full appreciation of the drug’s risks and potential side effects. Those side effects can include excessive bleeding, nausea and dizziness that could warrant a trip to the emergency room.
Reasons to avoid
Deirdre McQuade, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life spokesperson, has pointed out that Plan B uses a large dose of a powerful hormonal drug — levonorgestrel — that is available only by prescription when used in smaller doses for contraception.
While researchers disagree about the potential of Plan B to act as an abortifacient, the manufacturer’s own website states that the drug could prevent an embryo from implanting in the womb, resulting in what is correctly understood as an early abortion.
The USCCB cites other good reasons as well for not making “emergency contraception” available over-the-counter to minors, including opening the door wider to sexual risk-taking and pressures from sexual predators.
There also is research, including a 2011 study in Great Britain, showing that wider access to “emergency contraception” among young people doesn’t reduce pregnancy or abortion rates and can actually lead to higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
Our youth need better information and education about how to respect their bodies and how to navigate today’s challenges of living chastely until marriage. They don’t need false promises of a quick fix that doesn’t have their health or best interests in minds.
The judge made the wrong decision. It’s bad public policy, it’s bad for minors and it’s bad for the parents who have a right to protect their children’s health. As the USCCB has noted, the decision should be appealed and reversed.