Plan B Beats Abortion

The Food and Drug Administration is still deliberating whether to make Plan B available over the counter. The morning-after pill prevents an agg from being fertilized if taken within 72 hours after intercourse. It does not cause abortion. If available without prescription 1.3 million abortions and 1.5 million unintended pregnancies could be prevented, according to the USA Today article, 'Plan B' beats abortion. Critics and the FDA are concerned that unprotected intercourse among teens will increase with easier access to the pill. Barr Pharmaceuticals, creators of Plan B proposed a new plan to require those under 15 to have a prescription. Without more data about how teens will use the pill the FDA feels it cannot make an informed decision.

In order for young girls to safely use the pill some physicians say they must have control over its distribution. Wendy Wright, senior policy director for Concerned Women of America said, " the morning-after pill is a pedophile's best friend. Morning-after pill proponents treat women like sex machines." Although this may be true, easier access to the pill could reduce the number of children born into abusive situations. " The FDA's job, by law, is to judge the safety and efficacy of drugs, not the morality of people who use them."http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/2005-01-20-plan-b-our_x.htm


Chuck said...

It's hard for me to comment on this issue using all intellect and no moral influence. However, if it is safe and lawful than I say go ahead and have women use the pill who are not ready for such a responsibility as a child. I've always felt that one should abstain from such an luxury as sex until marriage. When you play with fire you may get burned.

rico said...

The topic of abortion is a heavily debated topic, and is hard to discuss without talking about morality. There will always be the issue about whether life begins at conception, birth, or somewhere in between. Health departments give away condoms, the government helps pay for birth control, so why is this such a controversial issue? If this morning after pill is going to help out young females who get into trouble, why prevent them from having it, or make it difficult for them to get it? Programs are provided for alcoholics, drug addicts, and addicted tobacco users, so why not give sexual active teens something to help them out? By making it a prescription drug, it will cause the price of the drug to go up, and having to pay to go to the doctor. I believe it will be more effective to make it available over the counter.

Lana said...

Whatever happened to teaching people about abstinence? I don't think this issue would be so prevalent if society was a little more concerned about stopping a problem before it got out of hand, as it seems is soon to be the case here (if not already).

June said...

If the drug is available over the counter, it may cause undesirable social consequences. Economically speaking, as price decreases, demand increases. If the Plan B drug is so easy to get and perhaps inexepensive, it may increase the sexual activity of society as a whole.

If it is sold over the counter, perhaps it should be expensive to create a lower demand for the product which may cause somebody to think twice before considering it as an "easy" solution.

At the same time, it could just provide an alternative to current forms of birth control and have virtually no effect society.

Dr. Tufte said...

-1 for a URL that is no linked (waived)
-1 for spelling mistakes in Diane's post and June's comment (waived)

I'm not exactly sure what to comment about here. Is this thread about Plan B, or premarital sex, or morality?

For the purposes of this discussion I am only talking about recreational sex. If a couple wants to get pregnant, that is a different set of choices.

The choice of whether or not to have recreational sex is, in and of itself, a situation in which there is a prisoner's dilemna (see Chapter 10 in the Salvatore text). In this case, sex is a game with two players, who can choose two strategies: have sex, or don't. For the time being assume that the former appears to be more beneficial for each player. The problem is that if the players both want to have sex (and do) that the outcome can be bad for both (an unintended pregnancy). The difference from the classic prisoner's dilemna is that the bad outcome in not certain. But, just like the classic prisoner's dilemna, there are two equilibria - a bad one and a good one - with the former being more common.

What Plan B does is reduce the probability but not the cost of that bad outcome. This will tend to make the bad equilibrium occur more commonly but with lower cost - that is, recreational sex will become more common.

Abstinence amounts to reweighting the outcomes for individuals so that the strategies that lead to no recreational sex are chosen more often.

This should make it clear that abstinence and Plan B are really unrelated decisions. Abstinence is fine, but it is irrelevent if the deed is done.

So, the choice is really between the marginal benefits of offering Plan B to those who need it, versus the marginal costs to society associated with making it legal.

I'm not sure that anyone knows how to weigh or balance those. But, I can tell you that economics gives us a pretty firm answer about what will happen in the real world: Plan B will be made available, and at a price that will satisfy the people who need to use it. The reason has to do with an area called public choice. One of the basic ideas of public choice is that small vocal minorities can get their way in a democracy if they can spread the costs of their actions over a large enough majority. This seems to me to fit that definition well: there is a small minority that will benefit greatly from this, and a large majority that (on net) may not approve, but for whom the costs are too small to fight over. The minority almost always wins in those cases.