I strongly dislike the ABC television program “What Would You Do?” for a variety of reasons, but last Friday’s episode crossed the line from annoying to utterly irresponsible.

In case you’re unfamiliar – which I sincerely hope is the case – the show sets people up on a hidden camera with various scenarios where people (actors) are engaging in some behavior that is frowned upon by society.  Some are obvious – stealing items from an open house.  Some are more subtle (and confusing as to how this situation would ever arise in real life) – a youth being coerced into being a child bride in a polygamous family.  In every case, they film the bystanders’ reactions and, generally, interview and applaud those who intervene.

There are serious legal and safety issues with injecting yourself into a potentially dangerous situation (instead of calling the police or alerting other authorities), yet the show implies that the “right” thing to do is to interfere. In some cases, the supposedly “noble” thing to do is scold a parent whose beliefs you disagree with (even if the child is not in any kind of physical or emotional danger).

But, Friday’s episode was the mother of all ridiculous and reckless scenarios.  An actor posing as a teenage girl solicited other customers in a drug store to go up and purchase “Plan B” (the “morning-after” pill – also called “emergency contraception”) from the pharmacist for her.  The girl’s story was something to the effect of that her mother is friends with the man behind the counter, and she didn’t want her mother to find out.

Here’s the clip:

The premise that helping this young girl is somehow the “right” thing to do is extremely foolish for three reasons:

  1. You have no way of actually knowing this girl’s age.  The FDA has authorized women age 17 and older to purchase the morning-after pill over the counter without a prescription.  But, girls under 17 must have a doctor’s prescription.  These would-be “helpful” customers who bought the drug for this girl could have easily been assisting her in circumventing these legal requirements – to the detriment of her health.
  2. You have no idea of the minor’s medical history or any contraindications for taking this drug.  Because it is a very high dose of the hormones that are typically used in oral contraceptives, Plan B carries serious health risks.  I don’t practice personal injury law, but I would think an adult who buys and gives a minor any kind of drug should think seriously about the legal consequences of the minor having an adverse reaction.
  3. You don’t know if the girl is being pressured to take the pill by an abuser.  Since anyone over age 17 can buy the pill at the counter, there is nothing to stop an abusive adult from buying the drug and forcing his young victim to take it to cover his wrongdoing.

This is an outrageous assault on parental rights.  The show would probably applaud the opposite outcome if the scenario involved a teenager asking an adult to buy alcohol or cigarettes for her, but in this case the supposed “heroes” are those who bought the drug for the girl.

Shame on ABC for this careless and appalling premise.

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