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Morning After Contraceptive Pill Now Available Without Prescription

American women over the age of 18 can now buy a controversial drug that acts as a contraceptive after unprotected sex. The drug is called "Plan B" and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved its sale with without a prescription. As VOA's Melinda Smith reports, Plan B is still the focus of strong debate.

If the Plan B pill is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it blocks ovulation and reduces the odds of implantation of a fertilized egg. It is considered to be an effective type of birth control. Some say it is another form of abortion. It took three years for the pill to win approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. One government official resigned in protest over the delay.

Wendy Wright, of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, opposed the pill's approval for over the counter sale: "Making this drug non-prescription gives a false sense of security."

Pharmacies have been selling the drug by prescription since 1999. Young women under the age of 18 must still obtain permission to use the pill from a doctor. Gynecologist Robin Kalish of Cornell University's medical center says the Plan B's availability will most affect young women:

"Often women who are 18 to 22 don't have an obstetrician-gynecologist, and therefore don't have somebody to call if they need this medication," said the doctor.

Young women on college campuses are divided about the availability of Plan B:

"I think it should be available for a woman to make that choice whether or not they want to take it," said one student.

"First of all, I wouldn't get myself in that situation and second of all, if I did, I mean...I'd take responsibility for it. I wouldn't take a pill for it and kill whatever is in there," countered another.

The Plan B pill will range in price from $25 to $40 per box. Other forms of contraception, which require some advance planning, are much cheaper.