Sisterhood Blog

Free Plan B!

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images

For all the Obama Administration’s alleged embrace of science over ideology, it is still stalling and stonewalling one of the most obvious pregnancy prevention measures around: the easy availability of emergency contraception (EC), or the morning-after pill, over the counter to consumers of all ages — and genders. Even after being roundly chastised by a judge for “intolerable delays” in making EC over the counter, why is the Obama Administration not quietly letting that judge’s decision to allow Plan B over the counter, instead defending age limits on the drug in court?

The NYTimes explains the appeal:

The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama’s administration to block the drug’s maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.

The Justice Department’s decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls.

Ultimately, the availability of Plan B over the counter for more people than before — those age 15 and up — would be an improvement. But the ID requirement still leaves younger women and undocumented immigrants in the lurch, as many advocacy groups noted this week. To put it more bluntly, those who are the most vulnerable to sexual assault or coercion are also the least likely to have the demanded ID. Yet from a public health perspective, the more Plan B available, the better.

Of course, the fact that EC effectively and safely prevents unwanted pregnancy (and abortion) is not actually the point. Science is not the point and public health is not the point. Protecting marginalized women’s health is not the point.

What is the point?

We’re still in a collective tizzy about “our daughters” being sexually active — such a tizzy that we ignore the fact that the sex has already taken place when Plan B is needed. President Obama was criticized for pandering to conservative impulses when he used the “as the father of two daughters” shtick the last time his administration circumvented science, but clearly he went for that messaging for a reason — it works.

Many parents, even liberal ones, are concerned about Plan B somehow fostering an environment that tacitly encourages young women to have sex. They’re also worried about young women putting powerful hormones in their system. The latter is more understandable, but at the same time, it’s nothing compared to the hormones going into a young woman’s system when she’s pregnant! Besides, Physicians and the FDA have acknowledged the drug’s safety.

“My colleagues and I know that emergency contraception is safe for use by teens of all ages,” Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians) Board Chair-Elect Dr. Nancy Stanwood said in a statement earlier this week. “It is safer, in fact, than Tylenol and other products sold directly from store shelves, without prescription or identification requirements. Studies show that teens, like adults, can follow the instructions safely.”

Indulge in a thought experiment with me: Imagine any kind of medication at all, sexuality-related or not, being kept off shelves because categorical fear of young men misusing it was too great. It defies logic; that kind of thing would never happen.

Condoms, diet pills, drugs like Tylenol and sleeping meds like Nyquil are freely available everywhere at a much lower price point than Plan B. Furthermore, common sense tells us that the placement of the drug in pharmacy aisles doesn’t influence teen sexual development as much as more emotional factors: peer groups, family, romantic interest in a certain person three desks ahead in Chem class, knowledge, self-esteem and general culture. All of this is far more important than a decision about protecting public health for the most number of people in a manner that has been approved over and over again by impartial experts.

The appeal may be about precedent. The HHS is eager to show it’s boss over the judge that ordered the drug available. But this is a cowardly move by the administration, no matter how many young daughters its members want to keep away from puberty and its consequences. Let’s fully free Plan B from behind the counter — emergency contraception should be accessible to everyone.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.