For too long, the Food and Drug Administration under President Obama was a pretty big disappointment to women. But this week’s decision to make generic emergency contraception (sometimes known as the morning after pill or Plan B) available to women without a prescription, marks the latest move in an improved path toward policy backed by science instead of politics.
Plan B is the name-brand version of emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. For no apparent reason, the FDA offered Teva Pharmaceuticals an exclusivity agreement which meant it could be the only drug producer to sell the morning-after pill over the counter and without age requirements. Other pills had been restricted to 17-year-olds and over.
As a federal judge has helpfully pointed out, the debate and the FDA’s decisions over access to emergency contraception has for too long been completely divorced from scientific reality.
As Jezebel reported, Federal Judge Edward Korman called the Obama administration’s previous appeal of a federal court order to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter for all women “frivolous” and “taken for the purpose of delay.”
The war against reason and young women regarding access to reproductive healthcare has been perpetrated, counterintuitively, by both the left and right. Obama-appointed U.S. secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebeliusdenied the last challenge to the age restriction, despite having no evidence to offer regarding any potential adverse effects of lifting the ban. Most insultingly, not only did the Obama Administration put girls at undue risk for unplanned pregnancy for no medical reason, but the Secretary of Health actually insulted girls while she did it, justifying the move by claiming that young women under 15 can’t read.
The right has also supported using government force to keep girls under 17 from purchasing emergency birth control.
Right-wing writer Katie Pavlich called the ruling making Plan B available for teens without a prescription an “exploitation of girls.” She wrote, puzzlingly, that making more contraception choices available to young women disempowers them. Her claim that it causes “negative psychological and physical consequences,” is supported by only one Daily Mail article profiling a total of two women who “regularly use Plan B as their Plan A when it comes to sex.”
Conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham appeared on Fox News to decry the President’s decision to stop blocking access to emergency contraception for girls under 15 without a prescription.
“It’s a good deal for pedophiles, a good deal for people who commit statutory rape,” Ingraham said. Then she called emergency contraception “hormone pills,” and claimed, “We don’t know the long-term effects of spiking and dropping a young woman’s hormonal levels.”
But in fact yes, we do. Blocking access was an entirely political move, as studies show that Plan B is no more dangerous than Tylenol or aspirin, both of which girls could always buy without a script.
Ingraham derides eradicating arbitrary government barriers to women and girls’ health decisions as “this Brave New World of women’s equality and quote reproductive health.” It’s unfortunate that women’s equality is a Brave New World to anyone.
It’s high time both sides of the aisle stop playing politics with young women’s bodies. This is another great step in that direction.
This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.
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