Thursday, August 24, 2006

Plan B Approved

After years of debate (some might say, stalling) the FDA has approved Plan B-- the Morning After Pill -- for over-the-counter use by women 18 and older. Finally!
Under the FDA's decision, Plan B will be kept behind pharmacy counters and can be dispensed only after customers provide proof of their age. The drug has been available with a prescription since 1999.
Despite arguments that selling the pill might 'encourage promiscuity' and long-winded (and entirely false) claims that Plan-B is an abortifacent, it looks like the FDA has finally stepped up and provided women with a viable and safe means of emergency contraception. No, it's not meant as a primary form of contraception (and no one has claimed that it should be used that way), but it does face the reality that birth control fails and that women have the right to determine when to bear children.

I had a discussion recently with a friend, who asked me if I was 'pro-life'. When I explained that I supported a woman's choice, she continually referred to me as 'pro-abortion' -- a trick that many of the extremists use to characterize those who support abortion rights. Um, no.

The opposite of 'pro-life' is NOT 'pro-abortion'. Supporting choice does not mean that I think abortions are fine-and-dandy and should be done on every streetcorner. I don't. Nor does it mean that I think there should be no limits on it. That level of hyperbole is annoying, and intellectually dishonest. I believe that women have the right to choose when to have children, I believe that no one has the right to dictate how and when women can control their own bodies. I wish that there were no abortions, that every single child was planned-for and loved. But I'm a realist, and I will support any woman who chooses to have an abortion if they decide it's the right thing for them to do. Ethically and morally, I feel that I can do no less. I do understand that people on the other side of the argument feel ethically and morally bound to oppose it.

What I'm disturbed by is the subtext of many of the arguments against Plan-B (and also against the recent vaccine for HPV) : conservatives in the Religious Right have argued that making these drugs avaialble might "encourage promiscuity", or somehow suggest to young girls that we are encouraging them to have sex. The subtext here is that a) sex is wrong and bad and b) women must be punished for having it. A case just made it to the court in New York where three pharamacists refused to fill prescriptions for the morning-after-pill, including one pharmacist who actually altered the prescription to show no-refills and then refused to fill it because they felt that the women were "irresponsible" and thus should be denied contraception. WTF?
the supervisor said the pills are intended only for emergencies. She allegedly said women who use it were "being irresponsible" and if they used more than one type of birth control, they wouldn't need it.
What's the logic here? Women who are "irresponsible" and get pregnant should be punished by being forced to become mothers....doesn't anyone see that irresponsible women are going to be irresponsible mothers, too? It makes no sense. But it does play into the "women who have sex are bad" model that many conservatives cling to. Not that I say many, not all. Plenty of people on both sides of the argument are reasonable and realistic. Let's hope that it is this group of people that manages to come out on top.

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