Emergency Contraception Restrictions Overturned!

This morning, Judge Edward Korman of the District Court of Eastern New York overturned the Obama administration’s ban on allowing women under age 17 to purchase emergency contraception without a prescription. Judge Korman has ordered the FDA to make Plan B available over the counter to all women “within thirty days.”

In late 2011, the administration overruled a decision by the FDA to allow teenage girls to purchase Plan B without a prescription. The administration’s move came as a surprise and was blasted for being politically motivated. In the decision released today, Judge Korman seemed to agree with that assessment, writing that the restriction was “a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence … The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step…were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” (The full decision can be read here.)

Plan B has been available to women ages 17 and older without a prescription, and to younger women that have a prescription. But keeping the medication behind pharmacy counters meant that women could only buy the pill when the pharmacy was open, and many pharmacies are closed on evenings and weekends. Since Plan B is most effective if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, such delays matter. Women have also reported encountering pharmacists that refused to sell them Plan B, because the medication violated their own personal beliefs.

Today’s decision is great news, and a great way to start the weekend!

Birth Control To Be Covered by Insurance Companies

Image courtesy of Reason.com

Well, Serena, you asked for it – and you got it! The Obama administration issued new standards that will require insurance companies to consider birth control as preventive care, and requires companies to cover birth control without a co-pay. The new rules go into effect on August 1, 2012 (or the following January, for plans that operate on the calendar year).

Some more good news: all forms of contraception that have been approved by the FDA are covered, along with emergency contraceptives like Plan B and ella. Sterilization procedures are also covered, as well as a host of other preventive services like screening for HIV, HPV testing, and equipment and counseling to promote breast feeding.

It’s important to note that this does not mean birth control is now “free.” Women will still have to pay for their health insurance – but beginning in 2012, they won’t also have to come up with a co-pay for these services.

Still, this is very good news – even if, as Irin at Jezebel pointed out, “the very fact that birth control is politicized or “controversial” is a travesty.” I couldn’t agree more; after all, the decision to use birth control, and which method to use, is a private choice that should only be made by the person who’s actually using the medication. Not to mention that it’s more than a bit hypocritical for all those anti-choicers out there to be foaming at the mouth about increasing access to birth control – how else do they think unwanted pregnancies will be prevented? Oh, right, they don’t think that women should be having sex in the first place.

So yes, there are plenty of people out there like Bill “many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex“ O’Reilly to remind us of  how many misconceptions and stereotypes still exist about sex, women, and birth control. Which makes it that much more impressive that the Obama administration has made such a common-sense decision, hopefully bringing us that much closer to a society where women and men have full autonomy over their bodies and their health care choices.

Obama Administration Responds to Battered Women Seeking Asylum

The Obama Administration recently filed a Court Brief reversing a Bush Administration policy that prevented battered women from seeking asylum in the United States. This reversal would allow battered women from other countries with “a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” to seek asylum in the United States.

The brief was filed in the case of a Mexican woman seeking asylum. She is a survivor of the most egregious forms of violence: rape, forced captivity, and a constant threat of murder. All violence committed by her husband. For this woman, fleeing her home for another city in Mexico is not an option. The constant fear that he would find her would prevent this woman from living a livable life. Although her original request for asylum was denied by an immigration judge in 2006, the Obama administration filed a brief in April (only recently made public) requesting that her case be re-evaluated.

Although this is a wonderful move on the part of the Obama administration, I’m slightly dissappointed and disheartened to read that this reversal does not include women subject to genital cutting. Although this isn’t necessarily abuse at the hands of a husband, although it can be, it is a practice that is often times enforced upon young women by family and/or community norms. [Read more...]