Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 29, 2006

Age limit undercuts efficacy of Plan B

Bittersweet. That's a good word to describe the Food and Drug Administration's decision to approve over-the-counter sales of the controversial contraceptive pill Plan B ("Plan B to be sold on demand," Aug. 25).

The sweet part is the fact that, after nearly a three-year delay, a decision to allow the drug's sale is finally here.

But the compromise - that Plan B will be sold over the counter only to women 18 or older - isn't a complete victory. It's worth noting that there are those who will be left behind. We see them every day here at Johns Hopkins.

They show up at the gynecology clinic: young, sexually active teenagers to whom we must "teach" birth control.

That instruction includes offering them Plan B "just in case" other birth control measures fail them.

Sometimes, however, it is too late, and our first encounter occurs when they inquire about an abortion or show up for their first prenatal care visit.

With only about 72 hours after unprotected sex to take the pill, many of these young women may not have time to have an uncomfortable chat with often-inaccessible parents, set up a doctor's appointment and get a prescription filled.

Plan B should have been made available over the counter without any age restriction.

But because the FDA will now require young women under 18 to obtain a prescription for Plan B, we must advocate increased birth control education for teenagers, which should include information about this new drug.

To deny them that would be a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

Dr. Meredith Loveless

Baltimore

The writer is director of the pediatric and adolescent gynecology program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The letter was also signed by four other faculty members.

Teens need access to contraception

I thought it most ironic that just a few days after The Sun published an expos? on the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Washington County ("Of sonograms and schoolbooks," Aug. 20), The Sun ran a front-page article about the Food and Drug Administration's decision to allow Plan B, a form of emergency contraception, to be available without a doctor's prescription - but only for people over age 18 ("Plan B to be sold on demand," Aug. 25).

Have we not realized that teens need contraceptive options, comprehensive sexuality education and positive role models to turn to for help?

Instead of limiting access to pregnancy prevention methods and denying teens information about sexuality and sex, shouldn't we be making it easier for them to make informed and responsible decisions?

Susan W. Talbott

Baltimore

Ban on foie gras a positive step

Rather than considering a ban on foie gras "embarrassing," restaurateurs and patrons should be proud that Chicago has taken a step toward eliminating its production ("Chicago restaurants defy ban on foie gras," Aug. 23).

The Humane Society of the United States and other organizations have campaigned to stop the cruel and inhumane methods used to produce this product.

To produce foie gras, ducks and geese are confined in barren cages and pens, unable to swim, forage or fly, and then painfully force-fed two or three times a day.

Their livers expand to more than 10 times their natural size, intentionally inducing a fatty, often diseased, liver.

The animals are often bruised and lacerated in the feeding process and sometimes suffer organ rupture.

Anything we can do to ease the unnecessary suffering of animals is a step in the right direction.

Julya Hoffman

Ellicott City

Restore authority to save the schools

We can recruit new teachers, raise salaries and test the students until we are blue in the face ("A focus on needs of school 'tweens," Aug. 28).

But until we restore the authority of the classroom teacher and principal, our schools will only get worse.

Norman J. Dean

Fallston

Grasmick derailed middle-years reform

It is with disbelief that I read of state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's call for a task force to fix middle schools ("Middle school slide," editorial, Aug. 20).

In 1988 and 1989, the Maryland Task Force on the Middle Learning Years made approximately 30 recommendations that addressed curriculum, ability-grouping, school organization, special education, grading, testing and teacher preparation. Many Maryland middle schools were truly on their way to becoming better places for youngsters when Ms. Grasmick foisted the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program on the schools of our state in the early 1990s.

Because of Ms. Grasmick's drive for high test scores and accountability based primarily on test scores, many middle schools had to give up on the reforms that were making them better places for kids because those reforms couldn't be directly tied to higher test scores.

This approach caused the difficulties now faced by our middle schools.

To save the youngsters of Maryland some time, the State Board of Education should revisit that earlier program and consider implementing its recommendations.

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