Why President Obama’s Statements on Emergency Contraception Make Things Worse

By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

President Obama has come forward and said he did “not get involved” in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ unusual overrule of the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to make Plan B One-Step available to all women on an over-the-counter basis, regardless of age.

In supporting her decision while still leaving a little wiggle room for others to perhaps have her take the fall for justifiable outrage from the medical community, the scientific community and women’s rights supporters, he also went on to perpetuate the secretary’s specious argument that “a 10 year-old or an 11 year-old” might be able to purchase the medication and experience an adverse effect. He went on to argue that “most parents probably feel the same way.”

First, it’s ridiculous to single out 10 and 11 year-olds as a supposed way to contradict medical evidence that the drug is safe for all, on an over-the-counter basis, regardless of age. Nearly all 10 and 11 year-olds are not having sex. Even if they are, is stopping a sexually active 10 or 11 year-old with up to 72 hours to safely prevent an unintended preganancy a wise public health move? No. Preying on fears about pre-teen youth and sexuality to justify denying safe emergency contraception on an over-the-counter basis to teenage women (those who will be really hurt by the administration’s overreach) is cowardice. Further, this means that everyone, even women who are 40, will have to speak to a pharmacist to get emergency contraception.

In addition, hearing President Obama stand behind this condescending, disempowering overreach of young women (and all women) with a nod to the feelings of parents doesn’t feel any better. Reproductive justice includes the fundamental right to self-determination. No one, the church, the state, the president, a cabinet secretary, and not even parents or family members, should have the ability to decide for any woman if, whether and when she should be pregnant.

Who did what when is not of importance in the ideological and wrong decision to overrule the FDA’s recommendation to make Plan B One-Step available to all women on an over-the-counter basis, regardless of age. At this moment in many somewheres there are many women, of varying ages, who cannot purchase emergency contraception without producing a medically unneccessary form of identification and/or doctor’s prescription. There are two words for putting hoops between women and the fundamental right to self-determination: sex discrimination.

Shame on President Obama.

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