Last night, the Obama administration gave up on its legal fight and approved over-the-counter availability for the best-known emergency contraceptive pill. Going forward, Plan B One-Step will be available, regardless of age, without a prescription, on drugstore shelves.
In theory, the right should be pleased -- this policy will help prevent many unwanted pregnancies, which in turn means fewer abortions.
Alas, it's not working out that way. National Review described easy access to emergency contraception as "truly sickening," adding, "It will be yet another way in which parents could be kept in the dark about what is happening to their own children, perhaps even when they are victims of sexual predation."
"It's a good deal for pedophiles, a good deal for people who commit statutory rape against young girls," conservative radio host Laura Ingraham told Fox News on Tuesday. "if mothers and fathers across this country hear this and they think, 'Well, I guess my daughter or her boyfriend or her rapist can go out to a pharmacy and get a bunch of, you know, hormone pills to give a little girl.' We don't really know the effect of a spiking or dropping a little girl's -- in many cases a young woman's or a little girl's hormonal levels. It's outrageous!"
No, actually, what's "outrageous" is this over-the-top hysteria about a basic public-health issue.
I realize some of these issues can get complicated, but this should be pretty straightforward: we're talking about a safe medication that prevents unwanted pregnancies and making that readily available to consumers who want it. That's it; that's the whole story.
Are there "sexual predators," "pedophiles," and "statutory rapists" out there? Tragically, yes. But their existence is unaffected by access to the morning-after pill. It's not like those prepared to commit acts of sexual violence have been stymied for years by Plan B's absence on drugstore shelves.
Culture warriors really need to get a grip on this one. Tara Culp-Ressler added:
This line of reasoning isn’t new. The right-wing Family Research Council has been repeatedly pushing sexual abuse as one of its reasons for opposing giving more young women access to emergency contraception. Last month, in a statement supporting the Obama Administration’s decision to prolong the legal fight to restrict access to Plan B, the group claimed, “Additionally alarming is that Plan B ‘access’ advocates ignore the fact that doctors and parents are often the first line of defense for girls who are being sexually abused. Removing doctors and parents from the equation will make it much easier for predators to conceal sexual abuse and to force the drug’s use on minors.”
In fact, there’s no evidence to suggest that expanding access to contraception increases rates of sexual assaults against women and girls. It doesn’t increase the rates of consensual sexual activity among teens, either. In reality, allowing teens to easily purchase Plan B is an important method of preventing unintended pregnancy that the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed.