Perhaps I need to apologize a bit in advance for the bitter tone of this post, but I’m angrier than usual about events here.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday overruled the Food and Drug Administration‘s decision that emergency contraceptives be sold freely over the counter, including to teenagers 16 years old and younger.
Others have already commented more ably than I probably can on what a terrible decision this is from the perspective of simple human dignity and autonomy. What I’m struck by is how, in a short news story on the subject we see two classic bad-faith political tropes playing out. Secretary Sebalius on her decision:
In a statement, Ms. Sebelius said that the drug’s manufacturer had failed to study whether girls as young as 11 years old could use Plan B safely. And since about 10 percent of girls are capable of bearing children as early as 11, those girls need to be studied as well, she wrote.
“After careful consideration of the F.D.A. summary review, I have concluded that the data submitted by Teva do not conclusively establish that Plan B One-Step should be made available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age,” Ms. Sebelius wrote.
Yes. Never actually own up to what you’re doing here, which is to say, throwing a political sop to the Forced Birthers and Sex Shamers of the world, the lives of vulnerable young women be damned. Instead, piously insist that you are only interested in science and that of course more studies are needed. More studies will always be needed until the heat death of the universe, or until the political winds blow some other way, whichever comes first.
And of course, there is the propaganda offered by the real villains here:
Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, said that making Plan B available to young women without a prescription would mean fewer chances that doctors would be able to save them from sexual exploitation, abuse and related diseases. “Most people would agree that more medical care and more attention by medical professionals for young people is a good thing,” she said.
Indeed. I’m sure from your perspective, Ms. Monahan, it is a wonderful thing is as many moralistic harpies as possible can get their claws into scared teenagers.
Let us note also that for the Forced Birthers, Plan B has always been regarded as a sort of early abortion. They’ve won a victory, making life difficult for one part of the “aborting” population. One slice off the salami for them.
All the rest are to follow, of course. Great Cthulhu, I need a drink.