Q&A: Barry Chase, President of Memphis Regional Planned Parenthood 

Women hoping to get Plan B, the "morning-after pill," without seeing a doctor often have to resort to their plan B.

Though a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee endorsed the drug in 2003, claiming it was safe for use without a prescription, over-the-counter sales were not approved due to pressure from anti-abortion groups. At a nomination hearing last week, the FDA acting commissioner said he wanted to approve over-the-counter sales of the drug to women 18 and older.

In Memphis, regional Planned Parenthood director Barry Chase would not only like to see Plan B sold over-the-counter, but he'd like FDA approval for sales to women of any age. Why? Of all the pregnancies in Shelby County in 2004, 2,820 were to women ages 10 to 19. A Youth Risk Behavior survey in Memphis City Schools last year found 67 percent of high school students are sexually active. -- By Bianca Phillips

Is Plan B an abortion pill?

Plan B is a contraceptive. That's where a lot of confusion begins. It's a very strong, large dose of birth control. It prevents ovulation, which prevents pregnancy.

What if I wanted to get Plan B?

If you call tomorrow to get an appointment with a local gynecologist, they might tell you to come in six weeks. It's almost impossible for someone to do immediately. They can come to Planned Parenthood. We have a standing prescription so we can not only prescribe Plan B, but someone can leave with it immediately.

How common is it?

We administer over 2,000 doses of Plan B in a year. If you think about it from the perspective that we're preventing over 2,000 unplanned pregnancies, and conceivably, abortions to some of those pregnancies, then the community has really benefited from the ease of obtaining Plan B.

Why is it so controversial?

There are individuals who refuse to accept that Plan B is birth control. They insist that it creates an abortion, and they are opposed to abortion. If you're pregnant, you can take Plan B all day and all night and you're still going to be pregnant.

Why would it be limited by age?

This 18-years-and-older thing has nothing to do with the safety of the drug. This has more to do with some people under the misunderstanding that Plan B encourages promiscuity.

There have been studies that show that Plan B has absolutely no effect on sexual habits. Women are either sexually active or inactive, whether they have Plan B or not.

what Does it mean for Memphis?

We have high rates of unplanned pregnancy. We have sexual activity in the high schools. Two out of three high school students are sexually active. The availability of Plan B is not going to affect that. I mean, how much more active can they get?

If it were available to any young woman of any age, if she were sexually active, she could then go the next day and prevent that unplanned pregnancy. A lot of these unplanned pregnancies are the result of their first initiation into sex. They are not on birth control. They don't receive sufficient information about condom use in the school system.

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