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!

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?

[Read more...]

Good News in New York

Teens at thirteen New York City high schools have had access to emergency contraception for over a year–but it wasn’t news until the New York Post got wind of it in an “exclusive” report on Sunday. In other words, the program did not make any of its critics’ wildest fears come true. No crazy rise in teenage sexual shenanigans. No rash of teens stricken with any of Plan B‘s side effects, real or imagined. The Post and fair-weather parental advocates like Cardinal Timothy Dolan would never have passed up the opportunity to fan even the slightest concern into a full-blown controversy.

Now the belated hand wringing has begun, and as long as the schools keep following the state law that allows doctors to prescribe emergency contraception pills to women fourteen or older without parental consent–yes, once again, New York state is ahead of the curve–I don’t mind in the least.

Okay, maybe I do mind, but I can also hope that the special provision included to protect parental rights (how I want to put quotations around that phrase), will force the parents who are really only fighting for the right not to think about teenage sexuality at all, to consider the possibility that their child may have the same feelings that have been making adolescents infamous for ages, even if only for the moment it takes them to ”opt-out” of the program. Best case scenario, it starts an honest dialogue between parent and child. Worst case scenario, at least the child knows where his or her parent stands, if and when the poor kid needs to talk to a grown-up.

Elsewhere in New York state, the news in teenage reproductive health hasn’t been good. A recent investigation by the NYCLU revealed “glaring inaccuracies about basic anatomy, reinforced negative gender stereotypes, and stigmatized LGBT students and families” in Sex Ed classes statewide. In one district, the ignorance reaches Todd Akin proportions: definition of vagina–”a sperm deposit.” No word on whether it shuts down or not. (Maybe it has bankers’ hours? Get it?)

I have every sympathy in the world for parents, and the argument about school nurses needing a parent’s permission to dispense Tylenol is at least as old as I am. But I’m still pretty sure teenage girls don’t use Tylenol (or aspirin, anywhere) to prevent pregnancy. (“Not now, I have a headache,” comes much later.) Maybe today’s parents are less hung-up about sex than my parents were back in the day. It wouldn’t take much. But I have a hard time believing even the coolest parents in the world have figured out how to make their children believe they’re always “easy to talk to” about sex. (I’d be impressed and probably a little creeped out, but I wouldn’t believe.) I’m too uptight to say I think the taboos we have about sex are a good thing; but I do think they’ve survived thousands of years because they’re powerful. If loosey goosey New Yorkers with all their culturally elite street cred can still get tongue-tied–or willfully blind–about teens and sex, I, for one, am glad city teens have professional health care providers looking out for them while their parents work out their feelings.

 

Political Science: Plan B and the Implantation Debate

Want to know how effective a bully the anti-abortion lobby is these days? When it comes to labeling emergency contraception pills, the Italian equivalent of the FDA–yes, that Italy, home to the Pope and umpteen Catholics, where, in contrast to the U.S., it actually is illegal to use contraceptives that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg–is less timid. The Italians have accepted evidence the F.D.A has been reluctant to place on emergency contraception for years, even though there appears to be little doubt about its validity.

This week the New York Times reported that there is ample scientific evidence proving that emergency contraception such as Plan B and its generic equivalents does not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. It delays ovulation, which means it prevents the egg from meeting that sperm altogether. This of course negates the argument abortion opponents use to attack the medication, but why let a little truth get in the way of a good story about bad scientists and the bad women who love them?

The Times’ investigation shamed one federal health agency into admitting the truth: [Read more...]

“Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, loved you.”

Inspired by Merle Hoffman’s new book Intimate Wars, we’re sharing some of our own most memorable pro-choice/social justice personal actions this month. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

The first time I discovered I was pregnant I was twenty-two years old, an art school drop-out on social assistance with no home in particular. I was couch-surfing, chain-smoking and imbibing illegal substances of all kinds. The father of my foetus was a man I had known for about two months. I was crazy in love with him even though my friends disliked him and seemed concerned for my well-being. I thought he was just intensely passionate. Turns out he was intensely abusive.

When I got the news from my doctor’s office that I was not just pregnant but four weeks pregnant, I stubbed out my last cigarette and ran excitedly to tell my boyfriend the news. I had been pro-choice for years and had never, ever wanted to have kids. I had no job, no money, no permanent residence, and had just been knocked up by a virtual stranger. Logically it seemed like a no-brainer that I would have an abortion; it’s not practical to be penniless and pregnant, but on the contrary, I was ecstatic, something I never would have thought I’d feel at the prospect of becoming a “welfare mom.” No one I knew was as thrilled as I was that I was pregnant given my circumstances but I knew that becoming a mother meant becoming an adult. It meant that I had to stop messing around, start taking care of myself, and grow the fuck up. No more Gen-X slacking, no more drugs, no more all night partying. Becoming a parent gave me a focus and drive to better myself, to make myself worthy of the person growing inside me.

The second time I discovered I was pregnant I was in my mid-thirties. I had left my son’s father just before my son turned four and had been more or less on my own ever since; occasionally being involved with incredibly supportive partners. I was about five years into a fantatic career in publishing that I had worked my ass off to establish, having put myself through night school while parenting full time. I was making a decent salary, my son was happy and healthy, we lived in a great child-friendly neighborhood. I was no longer a houseless slack-ass jerk, I was a capable, confident, career-minded sole-support parent and damn proud of it.

After a few months of casually dating an old art-school friend, I realized with shock that I was pregnant. Shock because I knew the exact moment that I had become impregnanted: less than twenty-four hours before vomiting as a side effect from the morning after pill. I had rushed to the pharmacy and dutifully read the instructions and took the pills as prescribed. I wanted to do the responsible thing; concentrate on my career, continue to parent my son, and keep enjoying my hard-won life.   [Read more...]

Pro-Choice News Roundup

Mueller confirms FBI will update rape definition. The Raw Story.

Planned Parenthood resuming abortion services in two Phoenix area cities. AZ Central.

Fraternity Asks Members: Who Would You Rape? Care2Care.

Eight Reasons Obama Should Reverse His Mistake on Plan B. Huffington Post.

Obama Administration Overrules FDA, Won’t Ease Restrictions on Plan B

Earlier today, the Obama administration overruled a decision by the FDA to allow teenage girls to purchase Plan B without a prescription. Even though FDA Administrator Margaret Hamburg said in a statement that the pill could be used safely by girls and women, Kathleen Sebelius and the Health and Human Services Department apparently felt otherwise. According to Hamburg:

“[T]his morning I received a memorandum from the Secretary of Health and Human Services invoking her authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to execute its provisions and stating that she does not agree with the Agency’s decision to allow the marketing of Plan B One-Step nonprescription for all females of child-bearing potential.”

For her part, Secretary Sebelius states that:

“The science has confirmed the drug to be safe and effective with appropriate use. However, the switch from prescription to over the counter for this product requires that we have enough evidence to show that those who use this medicine can understand the label and use the product appropriately. … The label comprehension and actual use studies did not contain data for all ages for which this product would be available for use.”

[Read more...]

FDA Must Lift Restrictions on Emergency Contraception

Since 2001, the FDA has dicked around with Emergency Contraception (EC), placing baseless restrictions on who can obtain it. But it looks like the walls are closing in on the FDA.

Although EC has been available — behind pharmacy counters with proof of ID — to those 18+ since 2006 and to those 17+ since 2009, it remains inaccessible for many. For example, women must approach the pharmacist and request EC; should the pharmacist’s religious beliefs conflict with providing Plan B, s/he may refuse to hand it over, under the protection of conscience clauses. And let’s not forget those under 17 who will be flat-out denied, and those (of any age) who simply can’t afford its high cost.

[Read more...]

Why is the FDA Stalling Plan B Access?

Today’s guest post comes to us from Ian Vandewalker, a Legal Fellow with the U.S. Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. Be sure to click on the link at the end of the post to take action and urge the FDA to approve Plan B for over-the-counter distribution.

Teva, the company that makes the morning-after pill Plan B One-Step, recently submitted an application to the FDA to make the drug available over-the-counter for women of all ages. Sound like a good thing? Well, it is and it isn’t.

Certainly any efforts to bring Plan B out from behind pharmacy counters and onto drugstore shelves – so women of all ages can purchase it – is positive, but the problem is… the FDA should have made emergency contraception fully available over the counter a long time ago.

Here’s some background explaining why, and why you should care:

The FDA’s been playing games with Plan B for almost a decade
Let’s not forget the Plan B-FDA saga started back in 2001 when the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a Citizen Petition with the FDA on behalf of over 70 medical and public health organizations to make Plan B available over-the-counter. In 2003, the drug’s manufacturers filed their own application for over-the-counter status. But the FDA, under the Bush administration, proceeded to drag out making a decision for years. The agency employed numerous stall tactics from missing application deadlines to requesting public comments. It wasn’t until the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a case against the FDA in 2005 for failing to make a decision, that the agency finally made a move… sort of. In 2006, the agency agreed to make the drug available without a prescription – but only to women 18 and older, only behind pharmacy counters and only when a woman showed photo I.D. [Read more...]

Top choice-related stories of 2010

Wow!

What a year it was for those engaged in the battle to protect a right we should all take for granted: a woman’s ability to choose. I don’t know about you, but I am pretty worn out, pretty frustrated at fighting for something I should not have to fight for, and ready to tackle 2011 with a lot of spunk, a lot of passion, and one very important friend on my side: the truth.

For those of you who missed it, here are some of the highs and lows that pro-choice warriors faced in 2010:

  • FDA approval of OTC Plan B for women under 18

http://www.medpagetoday.com/OBGYN/GeneralOBGYN/13867

  • Alaska votes in favor of parental notification

http://www.adn.com/2010/08/25/1423557/voters-approve-measure-requiring.html

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/08/25/alaskas-parental-notification-law/ [Read more...]