The moral and scientific issues surrounding Plan B

I have struggled with the appropriate reading of the issues swirling around the implementation of Plan B as an approved and freely available emergency contraceptive. On the one hand, there is the clear scientific evidence that Plan B is a contraceptive, preventing ovulation, not an abortifacient drug like RU486.  However, assuming that there is little basis for concern about any possible negative health effects of Plan B on young girls, and that is not entirely clear, was it inappropriate for our executive branch of government to modify the recommendation from solid physiological and medical science to make a policy conform to a different social norm (i.e., concerning parental responsibility for minors)?  A recent piece by Joanna Weiss at the Boston Globe provides a compelling perspective on the debate that I hadn’t seen before.  She offers the view that making Plan B freely available to all ensures that those, generally poorer girls who lack significant parental guidance will still be able to avoid unwanted pregnancies.  Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and pregnancy is a significant challenge to a women’s health, there is a significant medical and scientific basis for seeking to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy.  If making Plan B freely available can help, even if it sidesteps a parent’s responsibility for a minor, but sexually active daughter, then that’s what we should do.  So, I’m rooting for Judge Korman on this one.


About Tom Schoenfeld

I am an olfactory neurobiologist who practices his science at Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, MA, in the Department of Biology and Chemistry. I have created "" to help educate both my science students and the interested non-scientist about the process of science, by focusing discussions on how science is presented and misrepresented in the public media.
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