We previously wrote about how a lack of understanding of their reproductive health lead many teen parents to not use contraception because they believed they couldn’t get pregnant. This is tragic in itself but arguably more tragic are new reports that when teens do know how to prevent pregnancy they are being thwarted from accessing emergency contraception.
A research survey conducted by Boston Medical Center shows that when 17 year olds reach out for emergency contraception they are misinformed by pharmacists regarding their eligibility to access it. While not universal there seems to be a trend (particularly in low income areas) for pharmacists to perpetuate the false rule that you must be 18 to obtain emergency contraception.
According to a report on Chron.com, researchers called 943 commercial pharmacies in 5 states and pretended to be 17 year olds seeking emergency contraception. Overall 19% of the pharmacists said 17 year olds cannot buy Plan B at all. The numbers are higher in low-income areas where 23.7%, almost 1 in 4, stated 17 year olds cannot buy Plan B. The report also shows that approximately 44% of the pharmacists (this number goes up to 50% in low income areas) gave the incorrect age at which Plan B can be obtained without a prescription.
This information is blatantly false, 17 year olds cannot only buy Plan B; they can do it without a prescription. Teens 16 and under can also buy Plan but they do need to have a prescription to do so. I’ve also read about men 17 and older being denied access to Plan B so just to be clear, men can also buy Plan B without a prescription as long as they meet the age requirements.
ABCNews.com reports that the author of the study, Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, does not believe the bad information provided by pharmacists to be intentionally misleading: “While this study focused on pharmacies, Wilkinson said there is a lot of confusion about Plan B within the medical community at large, not just the pharmacies. Given the controversy surrounding the drug, and the changes in the rules and guidelines surrounding access, it’s ‘not really surprising that it permeates everywhere,’ she said.”
Whether the pharmacist are intentionally providing incorrect information or not it is clear that the teens in the U.S. are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to accessing proper sex education and reproductive health care. They are routinely misinformed about sex and contraception and when they do have the knowledge to help prevent pregnancy they are denied access to contraception.