No Better Time for Plan B

I have a package of Potassium Iodide tablets in my Go Bag, and I’m happy most days not to think about either, but I feel better knowing that they’re there. For those of you unfamiliar with either, or both–Potassium Iodide protects the thyroid from radiation poisoning, and a Go Bag is an emergency preparedness kit with enough supplies for a person to survive without outside help for at least three days.

If you didn’t know, consider yourself lucky. Or blissfully ignorant. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. That–and what the future happens to bring to yours.

Me, I decided back in the days of the dirty bomb scares that I’d rather have a package of ominously-packaged pills in the house than to one day wish I had bought some as an invisible deadly force fried my body. Same goes for the Go Bag. I put the pills in the bag, put the bag behind the couch, and honestly, including today, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve thought about either in the past ten years.

Isn’t that how worst case scenario preparation should work? Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and try not to scare the bejesus out of yourself in the meantime. Anything less would be irresponsible when it’s a matter of life and death, right?

No one would argue that possession of pills might increase the odds of a dirty bomb entering the city. Or that having emergency supplies would make anyone act more (or less) recklessly in an emergency if one actually occurred. And anyone who found the preparation (or knowledge of it) more stressful than an emergency itself would be told (in polite and gentle terms) to get over it. Fast. Fear and denial go hand in hand with matters of life and death, but neither makes death any less fatal.

And what is conception if not a matter of life and death? It may be the one thing most everyone on every side of the abortion debate agrees on, even if we use different words and share different sympathies. Isn’t it about time we started treating it that way?

Why aren’t we doing everything humanly possible to make sure that every pregnancy is planned and wanted?

One year ago today, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Katherine Sebelius did what no one in her position had done before. She overruled the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and refused to implement their recommendation that emergency contraception be made available to consumers without restriction, regardless of age or gender. The FDA’s decision was based on more than a decade of medical research and policy debates. Sebelius’ ruling was purely political. But times have changed.

Emergency contraception, or EC, works best when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Because it PREVENTS fertilization of the egg. (Meaning: it is NOT an abortifacient. See how Plan B works here.) Clearly, the best way for a person to prepare for these worse-case scenarios would be to have emergency contraception on hand. Like my anti-radiation pills, we can all hope no one ever needs them. (And if we keep working on better forms of contraception and better sex education, we might just get there.) But in the meantime, why not help women and men of all ages act responsibly?

People without government-issued ID have had trouble purchasing EC. Women under the age of 17 must get a prescription from a doctor, a daunting enough prospect for most teens, but even then, these days, how easily can anyone find a doctor and get an appointment in 72 hours? (And people wonder why we need Planned Parenthood!) Pharmacists have told men they can’t buy EC because they might grind them up and sneak them into some unsuspecting woman’s drink. (I swear, you can’t make this stuff up. Listen to one couple’s story here.) These obstacles (and absurdities) would be far less likely to occur if emergency contraception were on pharmacy shelves next to condoms and spermicides where the FDA believes they should be.

It’s time for Secretary Sebelius to implement the policy the FDA has prescribed for all of us and make emergency contraception available without restriction immediately.


About Jodi:
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.


  1. Great post! Thanks Jodi. The package of Potassium Iodide tablets reminds me of the “Anything else” movie in which Woody Allen plays a tormented character who is “equipped” in case of problems. I remember these lines:
    What are these?
    Water-purifying tablets.
    What for? ls the plumbing backed up?

    You said it all: “Why not help women and men of all ages act responsibly? and “Make emergency contraception available without restriction immediately.” It’s so obvious. If somebody shows a safe sex pack with an emergency contraception, nobody will tell: “Really? Do folks need a back-up plan?” …

  2. I recently read a quote, attributed to A.Einstein.. “If you cannot explain something to a 6 yr old, then you do not understand it”. Jodi, you obviously understand this topic – to bad the 6yr olds in political influence do not….. especially Sec.Sebellius!

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