August 24 marks the one-year anniversary of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) long-delayed approval of over-the-counter sales for the emergency contraceptive known by its brand name Plan B®. Quick refresher: Emergency contraception (EC), if taken within 72-120 hours after sex, can significantly reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant. EC does not cause abortion; rather it works like other hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy. For the 98 percent of American women who use some form of contraception during their lives, this is basic, essential health care.
Still, it took three years for the Bush administration to stop interfering with the FDA's approval process. I suppose it's more fun to place politics and ideology over sound science and women's health.
Shortly after last year's decision, I wrote about what we could expect in the wake of the FDA's decision. Looking back, I can see that many of our initial concerns were valid: anti-choice activists and politicians, who were further emboldened by the Supreme Court decision on the Federal Abortion Ban, did indeed try to distort the facts and push divisive legislation to undermine women's access to birth control.
Thankfully, as a result of the '06 midterm elections, we now have additional pro-choice allies in Congress who are standing up against these threats, and we have been able to keep some of them at bay. But we still need more pro-choice lawmakers to stop politics from interfering with science and women's health. With that in mind, it's a good thing the '08 elections are right around the corner!
A woman's right to choose has already become a pivotal issue in the presidential campaign. During the first Republican debate in California, many of the candidates came out stronger in their opposition to Roe v. Wade than even President Bush did during either of his presidential campaigns. Say WHAT?!?! I know it's hard to believe someone could be more anti-choice than George W. Bush, but watch this video for a satirical look at statements that were recently said during the debates. (It's scary to think that the statements about Roe v. Wade aren't satire, but verbatim answers by the presidential candidates.)
Anti-choice candidates like these are clearly opposed to abortion, but what's more – they're also opposed to birth control, although you'll likely not hear them talk about it. Even those candidates who once claimed to support a woman's right to choose are pulling back from commonsense prevention measures. For instance:
- As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney vetoed measures that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription and would have ensured that sexual-assault survivors receive information about, and access to, the medication in hospital emergency rooms.
- Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in his much-hyped "12 commitments" suggests ways to "decrease abortions," but never mentions greater access to birth control as an option.
And don't even think that the others aren't in on it too. Sens. John McCain, Sam Brownback, and the still undeclared Fred Thompson, all voted against family-planning bills in the Senate. I wish there was a word stronger than "hypocritical" because that somehow doesn't seem to convey this draconian position against family-planning services.
Let's keep these statements and actions in mind as we reflect on the one year anniversary of the FDA's approval of Plan B® for limited over-the-counter sales. Let's be sure to spread the word and call on lawmakers and candidates to put an end to the divisive attacks on contraception and the right to choose and work together on commonsense issues that will ultimately reduce the need for abortion. We really shouldn't have to sit through another speech that calls for an end to abortion without hearing the candidates articulate support for birth control. And if candidates refuse to support something as basic and necessary as birth control, then let them know you won't support them in '08.
This is just one piece of the effort to ensure access to Plan B®. For a different view on the Plan B®, please visit NARAL Pro-Choice America's blog, BushvChoice, this week to check out our exciting series of blogposts from different organizations within the pro-choice movement. Our guest-bloggers will highlight the various problem areas they've come across while doing their work to protect women's reproductive-health rights. Be sure to stop by and check it out!