Fox News pushed the myth that increased access to emergency contraceptives encourages sex among teenagers. In fact, research shows access to these drugs does not increase teens' sexual activity.
FDA Approves Over-The-Counter Emergency Contraceptive For Ages 15 And Older
FDA Approves Emergency Contraceptive Without A Prescription For Women Age 15 And Older. A Food and Drug Administration press release announced that the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step, also known as the "morning-after pill," would be available without a prescription for women 15 years of age and older, and explained the medical evidence that supported the decision:
Plan B One-Step is an emergency contraceptive intended to reduce the possibility of pregnancy following unprotected sexual intercourse - if another form of birth control (e.g., condom) was not used or failed. Plan B One-Step is a single-dose pill (1.5 mg tablet) that is most effective in decreasing the possibility of unwanted pregnancy if taken immediately or within 3 days after unprotected sexual intercourse.
Plan B One-Step will not stop a pregnancy when a woman is already pregnant, and there is no medical evidence that the product will harm a developing fetus.
"Research has shown that access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "The data reviewed by the agency demonstrated that women 15 years of age and older were able to understand how Plan B One-Step works, how to use it properly, and that it does not prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease." [U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 4/30/13]
Fox Pushes Myth That Emergency Contraceptive "Encourages" Sex Among Teens
Fox News' Martha MacCallum Pushes Myth That Increased Access To Emergency Contraceptives "Encourages" Underage Sex. On Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum introduced a segment on the FDA decision as "something critics argue could encourage sexual activity." Later in the segment, she responded to a comment about teen sex by asking, "Isn't [this decision] encouraging it?" and concluded, "[t]his is a big issue, whether or not [the decision] condones [underage sex], whether or not it encourages it, and I think a lot of people feel that it does." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 5/3/13, via Media Matters]
Fox News' Andrew Napolitano Pushes Myth That Emergency Contraceptive Will "Encourage 15-Year-Olds To Have Sex." On Fox & Friends, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano used efforts by states that have previously attempted to limit access to emergency contraceptives to dispute the FDA's ruling, claiming "states regulating for health, safety, welfare, and morality say well this isn't right, we don't want to encourage 15-year-olds to have sex":
The Constitution keeps the power in the states to regulate for health, safety, welfare, and morality. The Constitution also has given Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, so these two things are clashing. Congress set up the FDA, and the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, decides what drugs we can take and who can take them. So the FDA says girls as young as 15 can take the morning-after pill. The states regulating for health, safety, welfare, and morality say, well this isn't right, we don't want to encourage 15-year-olds to have sex. We think they should be older. So you have the right of the state to protect the morality of young women versus the right of the FDA to decide who can take the drugs, and they're going to clash and they're going to clash in a federal courtroom and a federal judge will make this decision.
Is there one size fits all declared by the FDA, no matter what the states want, no matter what the level of morality or need for education is? Or can this be done by state by state?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/2/13]
Research Shows Access To Emergency Contraceptives Does Not Increase Teens' Sexual Activity
Reuters: Seven Studies Found Access To Morning-After Pill Did Not Increase Teens' Sexual Activity. A Reuters article on the American Academy of Pediatrics' decision to support increased access to emergency contraceptives for teenagers explained that a "2010 analysis of seven randomized studies of emergency contraception found that having a morning-after prescription in hand did not increase teens' sexual activity or decrease use of standard contraceptives but did increase use of the pill and shorten the time before a teenager used it after sex." [Reuters, 11/26/12]
Bixby Center: Research Shows No Evidence Of Link Between Emergency Contraceptives And Sexual Risk-Taking. The Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California San Francisco found that emergency contraception does not promote sexual risk-taking, and instead "a substantial body of research demonstrates that there is no relationship between availability of EC and increased sexual risk behavior":
Though emergency contraception (EC) is only intended for occasional use, concerns have been raised that increasing access to EC (e.g., by making it available without prescription over-the-counter) would lead to increased sexual risk-taking. For example, if EC was easily accessible, would women use contraception less regularly, more readily engage in casual sex, or be at increased risk of contracting STIs? There is no scientific evidence to substantiate these concerns. To the contrary, a substantial body of research demonstrates that there is no relationship between availability of EC and increased sexual risk behavior.
A key study found that women who received advance provision of EC did not have sex more frequently than other women, nor did they have greater numbers of sexual partners, behaviors that can increase the risk of contracting an STI (see Table 2). In fact, the majority of women in the study had only one partner, regardless of whether or not they received advance provision of EC. Moreover, levels of STIs, such as chlamydia and herpes, were similar across women in the study (see Table 2), indicating that improved availability of EC does not affect STI risk. Women receiving advance provision of EC have also reported that having EC on hand does not influence their decision-making with regard to unsafe sex or exposure to STIs. [Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California San Francisco, April 2008]
Princeton: Studies Show Access To Emergency Contraceptives And Education Does Not Increase Teen Sexual Activity. Research published by Princeton University on emergency contraceptives explained that while there is some disagreement in the scientific literature, two studies had shown that "Teens receiving emergency contraception supplies in advance ... did not report higher frequencies of unprotected sex," and "educating teens about ECPs does not increase their sexual activity levels":
Teens receiving emergency contraception supplies in advance were more likely to use ECPs when needed but did not report higher frequencies of unprotected sex, did not use condoms or hormonal contraception less often, and did not exhibit higher rates of STIs. Another study demonstrated that educating teens about ECPs does not increase their sexual activity levels or use of EC but increases their knowledge about proper administration of the drugs. [Princeton University, February 2013]