Plan B: Should 17-year-olds have access to 'morning after' birth control without a prescription?

By: Gordon Boyd Email
By: Gordon Boyd Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- For U-T Junior Cody Bogema, the question isn't whether you're old enough for Plan B, it's whether you're mature enough to own your behavior.

"People are going to be having sex either way," he says. "I think that making birth control available, is better than you know, teen pregnancy."

The Chancellor for Knoxville's Roman Catholic Diocese says
the issue isn't maturity, but morality.

"Basically what they've done is re-define pregnancy," says Deacon Sean Smith.

"We see the Plan B pill as a chemical mechanism that induces abortion. So, regardless of the age (of the patient) it doesn't make any difference."

Knox County's Health Director believes many people have misconceptions about Plan B's contraceptive abilities.

"If a pregnancy has already occurred, it won't stop it," says Dr. Martha Buchanan.

"That's important for people to understand."

Knox County's Health Department has offered women access to Plan B, in some cases, free--through its federally-funded, taxpayer-supported family planning programs.

For years, it, and the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health,
were among the few sources for it in East Tennessee.

"We have dispensed to minors in this facility," says Center director Corinne Rovetti.

"Minors are allowed to receive contraception in the state of Tennessee, without parental approval."

Rovetti says that allowing 17-year-olds buy it, over the counter--should make it more available, though not necessarily attainable.

"There's still a certain stigma attached to it," she says.

"Many stores keep it behind the counter. You have to ask the druggists for it, and show proof of age before they'll sell it to you.

At least one drug store, Long's Pharmacy of Bearden
Long's Drug store no longer carries Plan B.

"We didn't have any demand for it, and we'd prefer that a doctor be involved in the process," says pharmacist Hank Peck.

"If a physician were to ask for it specifically, we'd consider re-stocking it."

Plan B isn't available through student health services on the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus -- much to the dismay of sophomore Jasmine Au.

"It would be more useful, rather than running down to Walgreen's," she says.

"I know it's more effective if it's used as soon as you need it, rather than whenever Walgreen's opens."

Nevertheless, she, and fellow student Brittany Ray question whether anyone younger than college age,(18) should be able to get Plan B without a parent's knowledge or permission.

"At 17, you're not old enough to make all your own decisions, but
at the same time, it prevents unwanted pregnancy," Ms. Ray says.

"I'm for it, but I'm against it. I don't know."

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