After years of cajoling, protesting, advocating and pleading from women’s health advocates, Plan B, the most commonly-used brand of emergency contraception, has been released from legal limbo. Hopefully this morning after pill will now be able to spend the rest of its days in the friendlier, more accessible haven of the pharmacy shelf rather than behind the counter.
This victory only came after Edward Korman, a Reagan-appointed judge, slammed the Obama administration for stonewalling and politicizing the issue after the FDA’s recommendation that the pill be available to women regardless of ability to furnish proof of age. The administration, loath to appeal the ruling further and alienate its base, caved.
I’ve been following the story here at the Sisterhood, continually baffled that a supposedly pro-science administration would embrace the conservative position on an issue of reproductive health. Should we credit this moment to the Obama administration finally seeing the light or, more cynically, should we note that the administration has done the right thing the very week they are under fire for the NSA snooping scandal?
Last year smashed records on reproductive rights — and not good ones. As the year that birthed the GOP “war on women” came to a close, the Guttmacher Institute tallied things up and found that of all the reproductive health and rights-related provisions enacted this year: “Fully 68% of these new provisions—92 in 24 states—restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005.”
These numbers are stark, vivid proof that the organized, nationwide pushback of women’s rights wasn’t just a media construction.
With so many new and varied restrictions on the books, many women — particularly poor and rural women — simply cannot obtain abortions. This combined with the stunning blow that was the Obama administration’s overruling the FDA on over-the-counter Plan B availability ended the year on a particularly sour note.
As the 39th anniversary of Roe approaches — it’s on January 22 — we need take that time to gather our forces.
Last week I was happily monitoring the news and reading all sorts of positive stories about how the FDA was poised to approve Plan B, one-step emergency contraception, for unrestricted over-the-counter use.
Imagine a system in which terrified young women who had experienced a condom breaking, a failed sexual negotiation, or any other contraceptive mishap could buy Plan B without hearing from a condescending pharmacist.
Finally, I thought, some good news that will lead to fewer pregnancies, fewer abortions and a saner culture. But a few hours later, came the announcement that even though the FDA sought this change and thought it was sound science, the Obama administration had shot it down.
The Sisterhood Digest:
• For all of you with two Jewish mothers — or two mothers, period — consider yourself lucky: A new study shows that children raised by lesbian mothers have fewer behavioral problems than their peers.
• An Egyptian court has ruled that men who marry Jewish Israeli women — and children born of those unions — are to be stripped of their Egyptian citizenship.
• The FDA will mull the approval of a new “morning-after pill” — this one, from France — that is said to be effective five days after having unprotected sex. Plan B, the only emergency contraceptive pill now on the market, is thought to work only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse.
I read Sarah Seltzer’s recent Sisterhood blog post, “An Intergenerational Battle Over Abortion,” with interest. And I’m wondering if there’s any evidence to support her supposition that young women do support abortion rights, and their contributions to the movement are unappreciated. Aside from citing one young woman frustrated with not being appreciated at a NARAL Pro Choice America conference, Sarah doesn’t offer information to back her claim that the conventional wisdom is wrong.
Do NARAL or Planned Parenthood have a breakdown, by age, of their volunteers or donors? Do the numbers back Sarah’s point?
The strongest, and most unfortunate, evidence that I see that young women are not very interested in activism to keep abortion legal is that, according to this article on Feministing, a leading organization in the reproductive justice movement, The Pro Choice Public Education Project has closed its doors for lack of funding. The organization’s primary constituency? Young women.
When my neighbor told me that “Plan B” was the name he had picked for the sports bar he was opening, I just about choked. Until I told him, he had no idea that it’s the name of the morning-after pill; he went with the name anyway.
So I thought it very clever when I saw that the National Council of Jewish Women is calling its new campaign for contraception access “Plan A.” After all, if we have a Plan A, we won’t need to get to Plan B, right? “Plan A” is an outgrowth of NCJW’s activism on women’s reproductive health and a response to the U.S. Senate’s passage, last October, of a bill that allocates $50 million of new tax money to abstinence-only education programs.