EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 5, 2013

Morning-after pill ruling draws praise, criticism

NH has lowest teen birth rate, Mass. is second

It’s a decision that’s encouraging for some, but troublesome to others.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday it was lowering the age at which teenagers could buy the morning-after pill without a prescription, the move attracted a lot of attention nationwide.

Reproductive rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, supported the decision, but right-to-life groups were strongly opposed.

Some public health officials, while not taking a formal stand on a politically polarizing issue such as birth control, admitted they were encouraged that the decision would make emergency contraception available to more young women.

Only a day after the FDA announcement, Dr. Jose Montero, New Hampshire’s director of public health, announced the Granite State had the lowest teen birth rate in the nation. Massachusetts is second on that list, according to federal statistics. The other New England states are high on that list as well.

In 2012, the New Hampshire teen birth rate was 13.8 for every 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 19. That’s a drop from 15.7 in 2010.

Massachusetts health officials made a similar announcement last month, saying the state’s teen birth rate — 17.2 births per 1,000 in 2010 — was the lowest it’s ever recorded. That was a decrease from 2009, when the Bay State rate was 19.5 per 1,000. The study did not include figures for 2012.

In 2010, the national average for teen birth rates was 34.2 per 1,000 girls. The state with the highest teen birth rate that year was Mississippi at 55 per 1,000 teens.

Advocates of the FDA’s decision to make the morning-after pill available to 15-year-olds without a prescription said it will help reduce those rates and encourage more discussion of pregnancy prevention in the home.

Previously, girls had to be 17 to get the pill without a prescription. The FDA also decided the pill could be sold on pharmacy shelves instead of being kept behind the counter.

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