Emergency contraception over the counter with no limits makes sense!

02 May 2013 01:06 pm
Posted by: Donna

The FDA has issued new rules on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception. It will now be on store shelves and available to anyone age 15 or over. Previously, it had been kept behind the pharmacy counter and you had to be at least 17 to purchase it.

This ruling comes as a disappointment to many reproductive justice advocates who celebrated last month’s ruling. In April, Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to change regulations on the morning after pill, making it available over-the-counter without age restrictions. Prior to Korman’s ruling it was available to those 17 and older without a prescription.

This looks like an attempt at a compromise in advance of the court ordered deadline to remove all age limits, which the Obama administration has announced it will appeal. Sigh. I don’t know what the admin is thinking here. They’re not impressing social conservatives, who don’t want emergency contraception to be available at all, with this move. And if the goal was to assuage the general public’s anxiety over teenage female sexuality by keeping some type of age limit, I predict it will fail on that front too. I rather doubt that breathless reports that “Emergency contraception can be sold over the counter to girls as young as fifteen!” sound any better than “Emergency contraception can be sold over the counter with no age restrictions!” to people fretting over teenage girls being sexually active. In attempting to quell the controversy, the administration is needlessly dragging out the debate and there’s no political upside, or public policy benefit, in doing that. They should just follow the judge’s order and move on. There will be no difference in the hysterical right wing reaction – screeching that Plan B is an “abortion pill” (not true) and spewing rubbish about morality – in either case. Again, right wingers don’t want emergency contraception to be available to any female of any age so it’s pointless to dither around with age limits in an attempt to placate them.

While the conservative caterwauling has been wholly predictable, the response from normal people, including some liberals, has been frustrating. I do get that it’s a visceral thing for people – it’s completely understandable. But that is precisely why there should be no age limits on buying Plan B, as counterintuitive as that could seem at first. Think about it: If the notion of a 14 year old girl getting emergency contraception at the pharmacy without her parents’ knowledge makes you squeamish imagine how she might be feeling about her situation. The average girl by the time she hits puberty has absorbed a bazillion toxic messages about her sexuality from everywhere around her. Schools can be hotbeds of slut-shaming and lots of families are not exactly supportive of their teen daughters. Do you really think the law can force a girl unknown to you to have the kind of open conversations you imagine having with your daughter when that girl may be going through god knows what in her life? I want that scared girl to be able to get the Plan B and prevent the pregnancy. This is a public health and safety issue, not a matter of morality or parental authority.

(And no, this isn’t comparable to getting a tattoo or drinking or other age-limited activities so please stop drawing those false comparisons. A tattoo or beer won’t get you pregnant.)


  1. Comment by Mike Slater on May 2, 2013 1:47 pm

    So Donna are you saying the courts should decide what’s best for the children and not the parents?

  2. Comment by Donna on May 2, 2013 1:56 pm

    On this issue, yes. It’s her life and her body, not yours.

  3. Comment by Elizbeth on May 2, 2013 9:16 pm

    I honestly wondered upon hearing the news if they were hoping that if they “defended it” by handing it to the newest attorney at the appellate division, they were going to create a res judicata situation so no other administration could bring it up.

    Once something is settled law, it is often difficult for someone else to come along later and force the court to reconsider. Does not mean it will not happen (which is why recently the SCOTUS once again slapped down prosecutors pushing the “but I do not wanna get a warrant for a blood draw in a DUI…” issue) but I wonder if ALEC would have pushed SB1070 had the original Prop. 187 decision had been appealed and struck down at the appellate level.

    Better to have someone halfassedly defend something that will not actually go anywhere then someone who will do a good job and actually win.

  4. Comment by Donna on May 3, 2013 1:45 pm

    That’s definitely a reasonable possibility but since I’m neither a part of the Obama administration nor a Beltway insider of any kind I find it’s simpler to take the administration’s actions at face value. If they take a certain action or propose something, I assume it’s what they want to do and a reflection of their beliefs until proven otherwise.

  5. Comment by Elizabeth on May 3, 2013 3:04 pm

    My impression of the Obama Administration is that they will do things that seem completely counter-intuitive at the time but later turns out to be a really twisty way at getting what they really wanted in the end anyway.

    Or it could just be blind luck that it ends up that way. *shrugs*

  6. Comment by Suzanne on May 3, 2013 4:05 pm

    Either way, this is good news and I appreciate Donna’s coverage. Thank you

  7. Comment by Mike Slater on May 3, 2013 4:41 pm

    Donna, typical liberal answer. The government knows better than the parents.

  8. Comment by Appleblossom on May 3, 2013 6:11 pm

    Donna, typical liberal answer. The government knows better than the parents.

    why do conservatives insist that everything is happy fun time at every home?

    That there are no abusive parents who would beat the daughter for having sex?

    That there are no abusive parents who themselves are the ones inappropriately touching the daughter?

    That every father is Ward Cleaver and gosh darn it, if it was not for that darn gubmint forcing its way into just allowing a teenager to take charge of their own body…that teenager would never have had sex. Because teenagers never have hormones.

  9. Comment by Mike Slater on May 4, 2013 2:48 pm

    Appleblossom, with your way of thinking we might as well just give our daughters to the government and let them handle it.

  10. Comment by dude on May 6, 2013 9:34 am

    Fun fact, some parents are so bad at being parents that we actually give their children to the government. We as a society just give everyone the chance to be sane, decent, responsible, non-child-abusing parents first.

  11. Comment by Donna on May 6, 2013 10:23 pm

    Since daughters are property and all.

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