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Parents react to morning-after-pill's easier access 

April 5, 2013 at 6:12 PM ET

In the debate over a federal judge’s ruling that the morning-after-pill should be available without a prescription for girls younger than 17, a TODAY.com poll found that nearly 70 percent of more than 9,500 who weighed in agreed with the ruling.

But for many parents, the topic of whether their kids should have access to emergency contraception products such as Plan B and Next Choice is emotional and complicated. And whether or not they believe such pills should be easily available, they worry about how such access impacts communication with their kids and how it may influence their kids’ opinions about being sexually active.

On TODAY Moms’ Facebook page, reader Teresa Downey calls the ruling “wrong,“ and adds: “No drug should be available to MINORS without parental consent. We are responsible for our children in all aspects and held up by society to take care if our children and all their mistakes.”

For reader Mary Blackmon Campbell, however, making the pills more available is a “grand step forward for women,” but she’s surprised so many are rejecting it as a positive thing. Says Campbell: “This medication does not terminate pregnancies, it prevents a pregnancy from occurring. Here we are in 2013, almost 35 years after Gloria Steinem, and still women are so self-destructive…So sad we women are taught to go against our own best interests.”

Mary Vargo of Redwood City, Calif., has three kids all in the "sex age range," she says, with a daughter, age 20, and sons ages 20 and 16. Vargo calls the ruling a "good idea."

"Obviously there are better ways to prevent pregnancy, but lets face it, not everyone is getting educated," Vargo says. "I am mostly concerned about young women being able to advocate for themselves . Preventing pregnancy is still primarily a women's job. Lets make it easy for them to do so."

Lisa Vernae Combs believes it would be best if kids would trust their parents for assistance in such matters, yet she knows that’s not always the way things are. She comments on Facebook: “If only kids were waiting until they were at least 17 to have sex...but that's not reality. [If kids] are looking for emergency birth control, they already have the need for it. Making it taboo isn't the root of the problem.”

Alyson Harber, a mom of two teen daughters, ages 13 and 16, and an 18-year-old son, said she was dismayed by the ruling and feels “it treats a very heavy, serious issue in a casual way.”

Harber, an entrepreneur in Bellevue, Wash., worries that making the pills so accessible will deceive kids by making it seem routine and therefore encourage more use.

“If they are sexually active and have a scare and think they might be pregnant, that is the exact right time they should be involving a parent or an adult to evaluate their options,” Harber said. She also thinks there’s a benefit in making the medication more difficult to get.

“It’s the same issue with drinking and drugs. Just because kids are sexually active or may be sexually active, it doesn’t mean parents should make it easy for them,” she said. “ The harder the access is, there is a direct correlation between that and the likelihood they would do it.”

Alina Darnell agrees with Harber that easy access may make give young women a false sense of security.

She writes on the TODAY Moms Facebook page:

“This will not end up good…Young girls thinking, ‘I can just get that pill,’ instead of using their heads and respecting themselves and waiting to be old enough to know what sex really is. This is not just about educating them, it is about teaching them…to respect themselves and their bodies.”

TODAY Mom Brenda Drinkard, however, thinks the root of the problem is that kids are being robbed of decent sexual education in schools. If they knew more, she argues, they would be better equipped to understand important issues, such as the likelihood of an unintended pregnancy.

Writes Drinkard: “Kids are curious and sexuality is a part of life. In our family, we would prefer (by teaching) that sex is something that can wait until they are an adult, but should they choose to make the decision (hopefully when they are older) I want to educate them about sex, the consequences and the options they have.”

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