That Was Then, This Is Now: A History of Emergency Contraception

plan bThe following guest post comes to us via Morganne Rosenhaus, community engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

For more than 10 years, emergency contraception has been the “poster child” for what it looks like when politics trumps science, again and again and again. Women’s health advocates, women’s health care providers, and researchers have argued for years (and two different presidential administrations) about the safety of emergency contraception and the importance of its place on the shelf, between the pregnancy tests and the condoms.


The age restrictions on emergency contraception have been in flux. Where do things currently stand?


In 1999, Plan B was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a prescription-only product (all new drugs are first approved as prescription-only). In 2003, the manufacturer of Plan B filed an application with the FDA to make it available over-the-counter (OTC). An FDA Advisory panel voted to recommend Plan B for OTC access with no age restriction. Then political turmoil ensued. You can read all the details here in this handy timeline.

In 2006, Plan B was approved for OTC access, but with an age restriction, which meant men and women 18 years and older could purchase Plan B at the pharmacy, but only with an ID providing proof of age. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a lawsuit against the FDA over the ridiculousness of placing a scientifically unfounded age restriction on emergency contraception, which eventually led to the lowering of the restriction to 17 years. The FDA was also asked to re-review their rationale for imposing an age restriction in the first place.

Then things got worse. Let’s fast forward to 2011. Continue reading