Last night from the New York Times:
The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with political repercussions for President Obama.
The government’s decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription.
The Justice Department had been fighting to prevent that outcome, but said late Monday afternoon that it would accept its losses in recent court rulings and begin putting into effect a judge’s order to have the Food and Drug Administration certify the drug for nonprescription use. In a letter to Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the administration said it would comply with his demands.
The Justice Department appears to have concluded that it might lose its case with the appeals court and would have to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. That would drastically elevate the debate over the politically delicate issue for Mr. Obama.
Let me start by saying I’m not crazy about diving into a discussion on women’s reproductive rights; why? I’m not a woman. I am morally opposed to abortion services used strictly as “birth control” by irresponsible people; I’m just not one that believes that government entities should play a role in the decision-making process, if that makes any sense. In essence, what I’m saying is, “have this debate; it’s a debate on morality, but shouldn’t be a debate on the role of government in our collective morality.” That being said, the single most divisive issue over the last half-decade in this country may well be rendered a relic of a bygone era with the Obama administration’s decision.
Access to affordable contraception has long been a battle front in the “abortion war,” so to speak, and with the right constantly fighting free or affordable access to it, coupled with their obstruction to legitimate sexual education at public schools, what else – other than abstinence – was going to stem the tide of unplanned pregnancies in the U.S.?
Enter “Plan B.” Offered in many law enforcement rape kits, health clinics, Planned Parenthood clinics, it’s not cheap, but it IS available for those who qualify but cannot afford it. Then there’s “Ella,” the so-called “week after pill” that actually only works for up to five days after sex. Neither actually cause abortions, as studies have shown; they, instead, prevent fertilization of the egg by sperm introduced into the female body. Susan Wood, a professor of health policy at George Washington University and a former assistant commissioner for women’s health at the FDA, clears that mis-notion up:
“It is not only factually incorrect, it is downright misleading. These products are not abortifacients,” she says. “And their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one.”
While there are those that argue her claim, there is fairly definitive research that supports the belief that “Plan B” only works by preventing ovulation, and therefore, fertilization.
While the discussion on “Ella” rages on, though, “Plan B” seems to have emerged as the “emergency contraception” with the most likely future to quell the abortion debate; because what prevents abortions better than ensuring an unplanned pregnancy doesn’t happen, right?
For far too long, the “pro life” v. “pro choice” has been fraught with a certain “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” fatalism. The pro-choice movement would say “fine; let’s prevent unplanned pregnancies with better education on human sexuality to young adolescents, and make contraception more available to them,” which would be met by stiff opposition by the pro-life right, who’d only advocate abstinence as a solution to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
There’s ideal, then there’s reality, though, so for nearly 50 years, the reproductive war has raged on; and judging from early returns from the right, the Obama administration’s decision hasn’t changed their tune one bit…from Rachel Maddow’s Maddow Blog:
National Review described easy access to emergency contraception as “truly sickening,” adding, “It will be yet another way in which parents could be kept in the dark about what is happening to their own children, perhaps even when they are victims of sexual predation.”
Fox’s Laura Ingraham went further…
“It’s a good deal for pedophiles, a good deal for people who commit statutory rape against young girls,” conservative radio host Laura Ingraham told Fox News on Tuesday. “if mothers and fathers across this country hear this and they think, ‘Well, I guess my daughter or her boyfriend or her rapist can go out to a pharmacy and get a bunch of, you know, hormone pills to give a little girl.’ We don’t really know the effect of a spiking or dropping a little girl’s — in many cases a young woman’s or a little girl’s hormonal levels. It’s outrageous!”
Seriously? Pedophiles? As if their existence will be heightened by the existence of the “morning after pill?” Has “Plan B”‘s absence at drug stores kept them at bay before, and we were unaware? From Tara Culp-Resslier at Think Progress:
In fact, there’s no evidence to suggest that expanding access to contraception increases rates of sexual assaults against women and girls. It doesn’t increase the rates of consensual sexual activity among teens, either. In reality, allowing teens to easily purchase Plan B is an important method of preventing unintended pregnancy that the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed.
Not that “fact” and “logic” have ever gotten in the way of the National Review or Laura Ingraham, mind you … but still, this is a passionate matter for advocates on both sides, and for me, anyhow, I want to hope that “Plan B” presents something in the way of “middle ground” in this ideological war. We’ll see.