Study Shows Huge Spike In Teens Using The Morning-After Pill

The CDC released new statistics on teens and birth control Wednesday, showing that more than 1 in 5 sexually active teen girls has used emergency contraception. That's a big increase from just 10 years ago, when the number was 1 in 12. But before anyone panics, the jump isn't because Miley Cyrus inspired a new wave of unbridled adolescent sex.

Teen sex isn't on the rise — about 45% of teens are sexually active, just like a decade ago. What's changed is that more of those teens have access to a responsible form of birth control: Plan B.

“It’s encouraging that more teens not only have access to emergency contraception, but also are making the choice to plan their futures and families by trying to prevent an unintended pregnancy,” Megan Donovan from the Center for Reproductive Rights tells us via email, in response to the study. She attributes the rise to a change in availability — emergency contraception became available over the counter in 2009 to anyone 17 and older. In 2013, it became available without age restrictions.

"That increased accessibility has made a big difference in teens being able to actually get emergency contraception when they need it," says Dr. Diana Ramos, spokesperson for Plan B One-Step. "However, there are still many more opportunities to educate women — these new findings are just the beginning."

What's important to note about the study is that it doesn't say how often the teens who have used the morning-after pill have picked it up. While pearl clutchers could use the study to paint the picture of high schoolers having unprotected sex every Friday night and hitting the drugstore before their weekly brunch, it's equally likely the 1 in 5 represent individual teens who dealt with one isolated incidence of unprotected sex in the most responsible way they could.

Whatever the case, the teen birth rate dropped 10% from 2012 to 2013, to a "record low" of 26.5 per 1,000. It's obvious expanding teens' contraception choices will give them more agency over their sex lives and allow them to make the choices that are the best for them.

Correction: a previous version of this post incorrectly stated the year that OTC contraception became available.


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