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Bush restricts adult contraceptives

by Saida Oliver, staff writer

 

Early one morning, a woman walks into a pharmacy in need of Plan B. Plan A, a condom, as in so many human interactions, went awry. The pharmacist, not concerned with her complications with Plan A, provides some instructions, and soon she walks out of the pharmacy with Plan B.

 

Plan B is known as the morning-after pill. It consists of high doses of the ingredients found in birth control pills. The contraception is only effective if used within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. Plan B is not the same as the abortion pill, RU 486, because it doesn’t work once a pregnancy has already been established. The Food and Drug Administration found Plan B safe and effective in 1999. The pill has an 89 percent pregnancy prevention rate, which prevents 51,000 abortions annually. So, you’d think antichoicers would jump to support it as an emergency contraceptive. Guess what! This is the Bush Administration, and “morality” outweighs science, women’s rights, and unwanted pregnancies.

In December 2003, an advisory committee for the FDA acted on a request to switch Plan B from prescription to over the counter. Women’s rights advocates had been pushing this change because the drug needs to be taken so promptly after intercourse. Soon after the decision, 44 Congressional Republicans sent the FDA a letter of outrage concerning the accessibility of the drug. Among other things, the letter stated that the contraceptive is, “stacked casually on shelves next to the toothpaste and cough drops,” as if this were a bad thing (apparently congressmen thought it would promote promiscuity). When the committee didn’t reverse its decision, the Republicans sent another letter to the FDA, this time expressing panic about “the impact the decision will have on sexual behavior of adolescents.” The FDA committee postponed the decision on February 16, saying it needed more data, particularly on the drug’s influence on and use by teenagers.

Supporters of the change are outraged saying the ruling is becoming more political rather than scientific. Plan B mainly prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb. Gloria Feltd, head of Planned Parenthood explains, “Antichoice people are trying to redefine pregnancy to begin at fertilization rather than implantation,” which is medically defined as pregnancy.

Studies have shown that the morning-after pill is most commonly used by women between the ages of 18-24. There isn’t much of a difference between using the morning-after pill and the birth control pill or the patch, to which antichoicers do not object, at least so far. If teenagers shouldn’t be encouraged to use the pill without a parent’s knowledge, then they shouldn’t be able to get hold of birth control either without parental permission, as the current law allows. Furthermore, if using this contraception evokes loose morals within young women, what about condoms promoting loose morals in young men? Why not make condoms available only by prescription also? This is not abortion. This is a preventive measure-no pregnancy takes place.

“ Any woman with the right kind of birth control can package her own Plan B and share it,” said Katha Pollitt, journalist for The Nation, “Until women can pick up Plan B along with, yes, aspirin and hairspray, that ingenuity and boldness is just what we need.”

 

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