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Thursday, May 02, 2013

White House Makes Bad Call on Plan B

Imagine if flu shots at pharmacies became a political football. People should not have easy access to flu vaccinations, because that only encourages risky behavior like riding in elevators or mass transit, going to public places like shopping malls, and having unnecessary contact with children. If we didn’t allow people easy access to flu vaccines, we wouldn’t be "rewarding" people who engage in this sort of risky behavior. With a more cautious population, the spread of influenza would actually decrease and America would be a better and healthier place because of it.

Right about now, you’re thinking that’s just crazy. And you’re right. Easy access to flu vaccines doesn’t encourage behaviors that lead to getting sick. In fact, pharmacy flu shots reduce the number of hospital stays by American children and does the same for people over fifty. The flu shot at the corner pharmacy doesn’t harm society, it helps it. I don’t imagine you’re very surprised. This is all very common sense and entirely predictable. The argument that easy access to flu vaccines leads to unhealthy behavior and an increase in flu cases is absurd on it’s face.

It’s also the logic behind this:

Wonkblog, Washington Post: The Justice Department filed notice late Wednesday that it will challenge a federal court decision requiring the government to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter to women of all ages.

The move came hours after the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives to women 15 and older. Previously, Plan B was available to teenagers younger than 17 only with a prescription. Older women had to request it from a pharmacist.

The Obama administration also asked the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York to stay Judge Edward Korman’s early-April ruling, which is set to take effect Sunday.
“We are deeply disappointed that just days after President Obama proclaimed his commitment to women’s reproductive rights, his administration has decided once again to deprive women of their right to obtain emergency contraception without unjustified and burdensome restrictions,” Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup, who represents the defendants, said.


I doubt the Obama administration actually believes that easy access to emergency contraception will automatically lead to fifteen year-old girls suddenly having all kinds of crazy sex, but that is the argument they’re caving in to. Whether because they think the fight will be a distraction or for some other reason, the White House is willing to side with people making an insane and stupid argument against over-the-counter emergency contraception.

And the most obvious conclusion to draw here is that they think the issue is trivial. So a kid here and there gets knocked up before she’s ready and ruins her future. So what? There are plenty of teenagers where they came from. America will be fine... even if these kids are not.

The fact is that there is no scientific reason for keeping emergency contraception from anyone capable of childbearing. Putting age limits and restrictions on Plan B is a political decision, not one based on health science. It serves no purpose other than to mollify nutjobs who promote an argument as stupid as saying that ambulances cause car wrecks, because people know they can drive irresponsibly and get rescued if things go wrong. The White House wants to avoid a fight with these people -- people who desperately need to be fought and defeated -- for reasons that are unclear. What is clear is that they don’t think teenage girls are worth the bother.

If they had just ignored the "problem," threw up their hands, and said, "Looks like the courts settled it. Let’s move on," it seems likely that there would’ve been very little blowback. The people who want to keep emergency contraception away from teenagers are probably not very numerous. A few anti-choice nutjobs who think all birth control is identical to abortion, mixed with perpetually panicked reactionaries who spend their days terrified that someone is having some sort sex somewhere that they should disapprove of. They’re clawing their eyes out every day over some "outrage" or other anyway. Screw ’em. They like freaking out. Why spoil their fun?

And let’s not just gloss over the problem of crisis pregnancies in teenagers. If they can’t get emergency contraception, that’s bad enough. But they also face more roadblocks to abortion than other pregnant women. The result can be tragic. If there’s one thing we know about women seeking abortion, it’s that they do it because they think it’s necessary. They’ll risk their lives to end a pregnancy -- and there’s no rational reason on Earth why they should have to, especially when you can prevent one in the first place.

Flu shots may not be a political football, but emergency contraception is. The smartest, most responsible thing for an administration to do here isn’t to punt, but to refuse to play football at all.


[photo by Marcus Q]

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