The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the sale of the “morning-after pill” (such as Plan B) for teens as young as 15, with no need for parental consent, and mandated that the drug no longer can be kept behind the pharmacy counter. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, believes there are “daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops women are forced to jump through” when faced with a crisis pregnancy and that this measure is a step forward for women’s health. While there are conflicting opinions as to whether or not these medications cause abortions, there is no doubt that the side effects for the female taking the medication can be harsh, including hypertension, depression and ovarian cysts.
What is disturbing to many is the fact that this move by the FDA now gives human traffickers a way to stop or end pregnancies in young girls being trafficked, with no medical care or follow-up. For instance, LiveAction did several “sting” operations at Planned Parenthood facilities around the country to see if workers in those facilities would follow mandated laws to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor. Over and over, workers were complicit in covering up what was presented as minor girls acknowledging having sex with much older men. In 2008, MSNBC reported that sex trafficking victims were “compelled to perform sex acts 12 hours a day and were subjected to beatings, rape and forced abortions.” With now-easy access to “morning-after” pills, sex traffickers won’t even have to visit a clinic; they can simply send a girl into the local pharmacy for the drug. No fuss, no muss…no medical follow-up, no chance for a medical professional to question the teen for her safety, her health, her well-being.
According the the Polaris Project, there are approximately 100,000 underage young people in the US who are considered sex slaves. The majority are young teens. One of the biggest obstacles to helping these children is that they are isolated. They often have no access to phones or computers and are emotionally and physically abused when they attempt to reach out. By allowing the sale of “morning after” medications over-the-counter to teens, the FDA has effectively removed one line of defense against human trafficking: compassionate and well-informed health care workers.
Jeanne Monahan, the Director of Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, is concerned about this very scenario:
There is also the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation. The average age of a girl who is sexually trafficked in the U.S. is 13 to 14. There is a real danger that Plan B could be given to young women, especially sexually abused minors, under coercion or without their consent. Interaction with medical professionals is a major screening and defense mechanism for victims of sexual abuse…
Human trafficking is notoriously difficult to recognize, let alone prosecute. The FDA just took out another line of defense for young victims, opening them to further violation, danger and exploitation.