Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday and stopped plans for the Plan B morning after pill to be sold over the counter. It is still available without a prescription but only to women (and I suppose men) over 17 who show proof of age, which at 17 would mean sulleness and a propensity for texting. Explaining her decision, Sebelius says she was “worried about confusing 11 year olds.”
Forget the 11 year olds; I’m 37 and her actions confuse me.
“I don’t think 11-year-olds go into Rite Aid and buy anything,” much less a single pill that costs about $50, (said American Academy of Pediatrics) member Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington.
Plan B is emergency contraception but not an abortion pill; it won’t affect an existing pregnancy. The FDA believed no age limit was necessary, but is there an actual risk to minors who take the pill? Sebelius isn’t talking but Greg Pfundstein at the National Review explains his support for the decision.
The general outline of the controversy is familiar enough. Plan B and similar drugs are controversial because in addition to their contraceptive effects they are known to have abortifacient effects by preventing fertilized embryos from implanting in the uterine wall. Advocates for wider availability of the drug decry those who stand in the way of a simple means of decreasing the number of abortions and out-of-wedlock births, all for the sake of very early fetal life. Imagine the “scramble — often in late-night or weekend panics after having sex without protection.” Opponents of trivializing sex, on the other hand, think that we should be concerned about how we treat all, even inchoate, human life, and, moreover, wonder why on earth we would want to decrease the caution in that late-night scenario. Do we really want to make it easier to have irresponsible sex and then run along to the nearest 24-hour retailer to pop a pill?
The sentiment here would not confuse an 11 year old. This is the standard, generally offensive judgment of women who are sexually active. Plan B wouldn’t make it “easier to have irresponsible sex.” Irresponsible sex is already easy. It’s an absolute. You can’t improve its simplicity. However, birth control — even when responsibly used — does fail. When that occurs, it’s responsible to take action.
This decision forces a minor to go to her parents if she wants the pill, which removes the choice over its usage and potentially her own pregnancy from her. Forcing women over 17 — presumably even those twice that age — to show proof of age and purchase behind the counter also restricts their privacy and needlessly so without a compelling medical reason.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the head of the FDA, disagreed with Not-a-Doctor Pfundstein, saying in The New York Times that the “studies and experts all agreed that young women would benefit from having easy access to the pill and did not need the intervention of a health care provider.”
The agency’s scientists, she wrote, “determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted disease.”
A mandate to purchase health insurance is a constitutional crisis, but the Obama Administration placing an age restriction on the purchase of a health-related item that’s proven safe is met with applause from the same people who thought the administration overreached with health care. You’d think they were the guy from “Memento.”
I suppose it’s important to ensure that women don’t have irresponsible sex but if they do, they become irresponsible mothers and eventually raise irresponsible kids who can walk into an Arizona gun show and buy semiautomatic pistols without a background check.
Arizona is the state where a punk with a gun almost assassinated a congresswoman. It’s also where you can carry a concealed weapon into a bar or a school. There have ben no recommendations for sensible changes to our gun laws since then. The Second Amendment is inviolable in this country, but a woman’s autonomy apparently is not.