No Ordinary Princess

...anything but ordinary...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Mixed Feelings about OTC Plan B

I'm very glad Plan B was approved for over-the-counter distribution for women 18 and older. I think many women can make these decisions themselves and don't need the permission of a physician to decide whether she'd like to take action to prevent the possibility of a pregnancy following assault or contraceptive failure.

I have concerns, though. I'm concerned that many pharmacists don't feel the same obligation to serve women in these circumstances as most ER physicians I've worked with. Consequently, women may face steeper barriers at the pharmacy in obtaining Plan B.

I'm also concerned that women will not have an open opportunity to talk with a health care professional about what circumstances led her to seek emergency contraception.

When a young woman presents to my triage area seeking emergency contraception, I immediately want to know why. Not because I'm looking for lurid details but because I want to ensure the woman is safe. I am able to look into her eyes and ask the most important question, "Are you okay?"

I want to know that someone who's been sexually assaulted has resources upon which to draw. I want a representative from WAR to be with her if she wants that. (I'm saying "her" because the majority of victims of sexual assault are women and we're talking about emergency contraception here, not because I deny the sexual assault of men.) I want to be able to help her get into emergency shelter if she needs it. I want to help her begin to deal with issues of abuse and low self-esteem, if she's ready. I want to know that she's got a safe place to go, family or friends to provide emotional support and phone numbers in case she needs to contact an agency or health care/mental health professional.

Will there be someone there to ask that question? Will there be someone there who cares enough to help?

Plan B is a victory, yes. But let's not lose sight of some other things that are important for the health and autonomy of women in this country. Let's all ask the questions that need to be asked.

tags: autonomy / emergency contraception / feminism / health care / nursing / Plan B / sexual assault / women


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