Last Thursday, supporters of a woman’s right to control her own body won a small victory as the Food and Drug Administration ended a highly politicized three-year argument and approved the over-the-counter sale of Plan B (emergency contraception) to people 18 and older. (For more information, read Saundra Sorenson’s news brief on page 8.)
In California, pharmacists with special training were already allowed to dispense the drug at their own discretion, so we were a little ahead of the curve. However, as with most battles that concern a woman’s access to resources regarding reproductive health, this one is far from over. The religious right swooped in immediately and has been mercilessly calling for the removal of Andrew von Eschenbach, the FDA commissioner who finally pushed for the approval of over-the-counter Plan B. Also, girls who are younger than 18 will still need a doctor’s prescription to acquire the drug. Meaning, best case scenario, the time between intercourse and when younger girls can access Plan B will be lengthened, which lessens the drug’s efficacy. Worse case scenario, a younger girl who needs Plan B but who is not immediately comfortable confiding in a doctor or parent will not have access to the drug at all.
So those girls will apparently need another Plan B. But shouldn’t one be enough?
As much as some would like the schools to teach abstinence-only sex education and never mention the concept of contraception, young people are still having sex well before they are 18. Not all young people, but plenty. And really, parents, what’s harder to swallow, a daughter who is having sex, with protection, at 16 or a daughter who is pregnant at 16?
Plan B, also somewhat misleadingly known as the morning-after pill (as it works effectively up to 72 hours after intercourse, not just the morning after), prevents pregnancy by preventing fertilization of the egg or by stopping a fertilized egg from lodging in the uterus. Since science\’s definition of conception is when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus, the use of Plan B is not an abortion. Still, pro-life activists would like to argue that it still somehow is. Life no longer begins at conception, apparently. Now, it begins when two people of the opposite sex hop into bed with each other?
This isn’t even about pro-life vs. pro-choice anymore. This is about factions within the religious right that, claiming this issue has something to do with abortion, obviously don’t approve of sex unless a baby is the ultimate result.
That’s fine. But for those of us who live in a contemporary world … why can’t they leave us our condoms and our birth control and our Plan B? They don’t have to use it. We live in a world where some people really like sex, even if they don’t really want to have children. And shouldn’t that be OK?