The Washington Post today detailed the tragic history of Plan B (a.k.a. the morning after pill). It is crystal clear that right wing idealogy has been winning out over science for far too long. From Wikipedia:
Emergency contraception (EC) (also known as Emergency Birth Control (EBC), the morning-after pill, or postcoital contraception) refers to measures, that if taken after sex, may prevent a pregnancy.
Forms of EC include:
* Emergency contraceptive pill –referred to simply as “emergency contraception,” “ECPs,” or “ECs”, or “morning-after pill” –are hormones that act both to prevent ovulation or fertilisation, or perhaps the subsequent implantation of a fertilised egg (zygote). ECPs are not to be confused with chemical abortion methods that act after implantation has occurred.
* Intrauterine devices (IUDs) – usually used as a primary contraception method, but sometimes used as emergency contraception.
As opposed to regular methods of contraception, ECs are considered for use in occasional cases only, for example in the event of contraceptive failure. Since they act before implantation, they are considered medically and legally to be forms of contraception. However, some who are anti-abortion define pregnancy as beginning with fertilisation, so they consider EC to be a form of abortion. These claims remain controversial; see Controversy section for more detail. [Link]
The key thing to understand here is that idealogically driven elements in this country, working with the Bush Administration, have tried to equate the use of the morning after pill with abortion. When the public is misled in this way many feel they too should work against allowing over-the-counter sales of such a pill. This analogy is simply untrue. The morning after pill is a form of contraception. It works to prevent conception in the first place in cases ranging from rape and insest to when a condom breaks. It was back in 2004 that an independent FDA review board made up of scientists and health professionals recommended that the pill be sold over-the-counter:
”By overruling a recommendation by an independent F.D.A. review board, the White House is putting its own political interests ahead of sound medical policies that have broad support,” said Phil Singer, a spokesman for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign. ”This White House is more interested in appealing to its electoral base than it is in protecting women’s health.”… [Link]
p> Today the morning after pill is back in the news and there is finally a glimmer of hope for some progress:
Non-prescription sales of a “morning-after” contraceptive could be approved for women 18 and older within weeks, U.S. health officials said on Monday after years of weighing whether to make Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Plan B pills more easily available.
The Plan B decision has seen the Food and Drug Administration lobbied relentlessly by supporters and critics of the drug and has held up confirmation of an FDA chief.
“We would like to meet with you as soon as practicable,” the FDA said in a letter to Barr, adding in a statement that it hoped to wrap the process up “in a matter of weeks.”
Some conservatives say easy access to Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, will encourage promiscuity and sexual diseases.
Women’s groups say over-the-counter sales could reduce abortions because more women could get the pills in time. [Link]
Now for the punchline. While we backward Americans continue to be bogged down in this issue, India shows us how to be progressive [via Scott Carney's (of Wired Magazine) interesting new blog]:
Sure India has a reputation for being a little squeamish when it comes to frank discussions of sex, but that’s not to say that the country can’t be pragmatic when it needs to be. Last year after only a half hearted attack by assorted Hindu fundamentalist segments, the Ministry of Health gave the go ahead order to allow emergency contraception to be sold over the counter. One year later generic pharmaceutical companies like Banglaore based Intra-Labs have upped the ante with a broad based ad campaign to market the drug. It’s a breath of fresh air after living in Madison, WI for three years where Christian fundamentalists have attempted to ban sales of the pill several times… [Link]
Despite the fact that the FDA chief is apparently sending positive signals, Senators Clinton and Murray aren’t buying the same old story:
U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) have announced that they intend to place a hold on Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach’s nomination to head the Food and Drug Administration, RAW STORY has learned…
p>”Today’s announcement,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement, “is nothing more than another delay tactic.”
“We will maintain our hold on Dr. von Eschenbach’s nomination until a decision is made…” [Link]
p>Way to play hardball. I think if it fails this time the Dems should use this as a wedge issue.