A new study has unearthed something in the world of pharmacy more depressing than filled pediatric cancer-fighting prescriptions that never get picked up: it appears that across the country, pill-dispensing professionals are giving teenage girls misinformation about the morning after pill's legality and availability. But when doctors call the same pharmacists with questions, suddenly everyone at the pharmacy's got their facts straight. It doesn't take a professional mathlete to put two and two together here: pharmacists are routinely lying to teenage girls to keep them from emergency contraception. Stupidest professional moralizing ever?
According to current federal guidelines, girls age 17 and up are legally able to acquire the pill sans prescription at a pharmacy, and girls 17 and under are able to get it with a doctor's prescription. But researchers in an undercover study, conducted by the Boston Medical Center/Boston University School of Medicine and published in the journal Pediatrics, found that when girls 17 and under called their local apothecary for information about Plan B, they're often told that the pill is not legally available to them, or they're given incorrect information about whether or not they need a prescription. According to msnbc, the study went a little something like this,
All callers asked questions from a script. The first question was whether the pharmacy had the medication in stock — 80 percent of the 943 pharmacies said they did. Next, the researcher posing as a teen asked if she could get the drug, while the researcher posing as the doctor of a 17-year-old patient asked if the patient could get the medication.
There was a huge disparity between the answers given to the teens and those offered to the physicians, with 19 percent of the 17-year-olds being told that they couldn't get it under any circumstances, compared with only 3 percent of the physicians.
In addition, "teens" who called the pharmacies asked the people they spoke with if they knew what the age restrictions on the morning after pill were, but were given incorrect answers 43 percent of the time.
Someone call the fire department; we've got an outbreak of pants fires down at the old pharmacy!
Researchers surmise that some of the disparity could be explained by who study participants spoke with on the phone. People posing as "doctors" often were handed off to an actual pharmacist, whereas normal peons like you, me, or the study's fake teens may be relegated to a low-level pharmacy employee who spends all day spinning around on a stool wearing a dunce cap and doing that thing that cartoons do with their lips when they don't know the answer to something.
But if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, there's probably also a hearty helping of piping hot duck l'moralizing with a delicate puritanical glaze being served up here.
The study didn't examine whether similar misinformation was given to people calling the pharmacy posing of women over the age of 17, or women who were married and saying they had a condom mishap with their husband; a disparity in Plan B misinformation given to teens versus these groups might help researchers determine if the moral problem of pharmacists is with teen sex, or with the chemistry of the morning after pill in general. Theoretically, if a pharmacist were opposed to the morning after pill no matter what the circumstances, they'd attempt to avoid prescribing it in all circumstances. But if their problem is with teenagers having sex and not having to suffer pregnancy (God's most precious, blessed, miraculous punishment for sluts), they'd lie more often to the teens.
Teens having unprotected sex en masse is probably not ideal, but moralizing as though the world is ideal is a dangerous practice. And until doctors develop a pill that allows 17-year-olds to go back in time and unbreak the condom, Plan B's the best we've got.