“Congratulations,” my friend joked on my 20th birthday. “You’ve officially beaten teen pregnancy!”

From the privileged position of a white middle-class college student, it is easy to distance myself from the reality of unplanned pregnancy that many women my age and younger are forced to face.

Unplanned pregnancy transgresses all boundaries regardless of class. It is ignorant to adopt the “it won’t happen to me” mindset, but it is also important to note that statistically, females who live in lower income households experience some of the highest rates of sexual violence and some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy.

On Friday, April 5, Federal Judge Edward Korman ruled that emergency contraceptive Plan B and its generic versions must be made available over the counter for all women, regardless of age. Until now, young women under 17 were required to have a prescription and those older than 17 were required to show ID.

In response to this ruling, the New York Daily News ran an op-ed stating, “Now, a Brooklyn federal judge has ruled that moms and dads — including the ones in the White House — are owed no legal say over whether very young daughters can pop a hormonal contraceptive with a can of Coke and a bag of Skittles the day after they have sex.”

The Daily News is implying that teens who run out to get Plan B are reckless and nonchalantly sexually promiscuous. It’s a disappointing generalization that exemplifies the widespread misinformation that led to the drug’s initial age restrictions.

It is easy to sympathize with the sentiment behind the Daily News’ argument. Of course we want teenage girls to be able to approach their parents about sex, whether it happens consensually or, unfortunately, through assault.

The sad truth is that not every girl can talk to her parents. Not all parents make themselves approachable or available. Not every young woman has a trusted adult to guide her. What happens when one of these young women finds herself in the position where she has had unprotected sex and wants to protect herself? If she is a minor, where does she turn?

The science is there. The only side effects of the drug include fatigue, headaches, nausea and vomiting in rare cases – nothing different than the side effects of birth control. The FDA has found nothing that renders the drug unsafe for any post-pubescent female.

Emergency contraception, which must be taken within 72 hours of having sex, is not an early-term abortion. The pill cannot abort an already existing pregnancy. It is instead a preventative measure; it stops the egg from attaching to the uterine wall.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 percent of pregnancies among 15– 19-year-olds in 2008 ended in abortion. Plan B can help prevent these pregnancies and these abortions.

Allowing all women, regardless of age, to purchase Plan B will benefit those at-risk teens and give responsible parents the opportunity to engage in important discussions with their daughters. The Guttmacher Institute pointed out that while the U.S. and Europe have similar rates of sexual activity, “European teens are more likely than U.S. teens to use contraceptives generally and to use the most effective methods; they therefore have substantially lower pregnancy rates.”

This suggests a deeper problem we should be addressing. We need to teach our young women who are sexually active by choice about protecting themselves.  Regardless of whether we preach abstinence, some young adults are going to choose to be sexually active and they need to know how to protect themselves when they do.

Do we want our teenage daughters to find themselves in the position where they have to take Plan B? Absolutely not. It was in the same spirit that my friend and I jokingly celebrated avoiding teenage pregnancy. But making Plan B available to all young women as well as improving our communication and education channels is the right step in helping women lead healthy lives.

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