Prescribe morning-after pills to young teenagers, say US pediatric group

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called on pediatricians in the US to provide advice to all adolescent patients about emergency contraception, and to prescribe it to girls under 17 in advance. US policy bans sales of the pills to girls under 17, but advance prescriptions would cut the physician out of the equation when younger teens want emergency contraception immediately. Susan Wood, former women’s health official at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called the decision “significant”, and said: “it's not often you see physician organizations saying that their patients are better off without the physician involvement.”

The announcement sparked concern with some religious groups. Michael O’Dea, of nonprofit Christus Medicus Foundation, called it “a violation of parents’ rights to be the primary educator of their children.” The US Conference of Catholic Bishops called the declaration “tragic”. Theresa Notare, of the Conference’s Natural Family Planning Program, said: “It is a very sad day when physicians think that “good medicine” is to attack an adolescent girl's healthy fertility with potent drugs just to prevent a possible pregnancy”. She continued: “This recommendation becomes tragic when we consider that the recommendation is built upon overriding a parent's rights over their own children,” she said.

Emergency contraception for teenagers has been highly controversial for nearly a decade. Last December, the FDA approved over-the-counter sales with no age limits, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled this decision, ordering that the pills be available only by prescription for girls under 17. The Center for Reproductive Rights, a global advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit to overturn Sebelius’ decision. The AAP said in its policy statement that pediatricians should inform their patients about all legal treatments, even those “to which they object”. ~ Reuters, Nov 26

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