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Reaction Mixed To Federal Decision On Morning-After Pill

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RALEIGH, N.C. — On Thursday, the federal Food and Drug Administration approved the over-the-counter sale of the controversial morning-after pill known as "Plan B" to women 18 and older. But local reaction to the news might not be what you would expect.

Plan B is a highly concentrated birth control pill that helps prevent pregnancy within 72 hours after sex. Using the method does not terminate pregnancy. For that reason, North Carolina Right to Life has not taken an official opinion on Plan B.

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    The morning-after pill is already available in North Carolina for women of any age with a prescription. Plan B will be sold at pharmacies without a prescription for women 18 and older by the end of the year. It will cost around $30 a dose.

    Supporters of Plan B believe making the birth control available over the counter at pharmacies could prevent as many as 1.7 million unplanned pregnancies a year and reduce abortions by 800,000 per year.

    "This is a great day for women's health," said Paige Johnston of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.

    Johnson said she's thrilled that the FDA acknowledged Plan B is safe and effective. However, she's disappointed that government won't allow teenagers under 18 the same over-the-counter access. Women 17 and under will still need a doctor's approval before receiving the drug.

    "When we make it harder for teenagers to get access to birth control to prevent unintended pregnancies, it's a bad policy," said Johnson.

    "Nothing would stop an adult, even an 18-year-old friend, from purchasing this drug and giving it to their 16-year-old, 17-year-old friend," said Stephen Daniels of the conservative, nonprofit North Carolina Family Policy Council.

    Daniels said he worries that broader access to emergency contraception may give young women and men a false sense of security.

    "A drug like this raises the specter that perhaps giving teenagers the idea that, 'Well, I can engage in sexual activity and be able to avoid the consequences.'"

    Johnston said that making birth control more available for teenagers doesn't encourage more sexual behavior. Daniels said that abstinence should be promoted as the most-effective birth control method.

    "We certainly believe that the safest and best context for sexual activity is within the bonds of marriage alone," said Daniels.

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