Your Health

Poll: Americans Favor Age Restrictions On Morning-After Pill

Illustration by Katherine Streeter for NPR i i
Katherine Streeter for NPR
Illustration by Katherine Streeter for NPR
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Emergency contraception has been embroiled in controversy pretty much from the start.

But this year the legal wrangling over who can buy the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill without a prescription came to an end. A federal judge in New York ruled in April that the morning-after pill also had to be made available over the counter to girls 16 and under.

Should nonprescription access to the Plan B pill be restricted by age?

The ruling effectively quashed the Obama administration's position on age minimums and paved the way for the pill to be moved out from behind drugstore counters. In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sale of Plan B One-Step without any age restrictions.

We wondered how Americans feel about how the morning-after pill should be handled and what restrictions, if any, there should be on its sale.

So we asked in them in the NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll.

First, we found out that most people are familiar that there is a morning-after pill. Overall, nearly 82 percent of people said they knew about it. Among women, the figure was 85 percent.

Who should be allowed to get the pill without a prescription? Eighteen percent said there should be no age minimum. Around the same proportion — 17 percent — said a prescription should always be required, regardless of the buyer's age.

Overall, the opinions were mixed, though the current legal status only jibes with the view of a minority that holds age shouldn't be a factor.

About two-thirds of respondents believe that parents should have to give their permission before anyone under 18 buys the morning-after pill without a prescription. That's not a requirement now.

Finally, most Americans believe insurers should pay for the morning-after pill. About 61 percent say it should be covered compared with 39 percent who said it shouldn't.

"I think one of the things that's necessary is an education effort," said Dr. Michael Taylor, chief medical officer at Truven Health Analytics, after reviewing the results. "There's probably some misconception in this country about how the morning-after pill works. It's not an abortion; it's a type of contraception. It really serves the same role as a birth-control pill."

The national poll drew responses from 3,008 participants interviewed by telephone during the first half of June. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points. See the questions and full set of responses here.

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