EC Still Inaccessible for Military Women


For years, reproductive rights advocates
have argued that when it came to policy decisions around women’s health,
the Bush administration was driven by politics, not science.  Well, just last week,
in complete  vindication of those arguments,
a federal court found that the Food and
Drug Administration, under President Bush’s leadership,
had been improperly influenced by "political considerations" in
its decision-making around Plan B,
the drug commonly known as the morning-after-pill.  The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District
of New York ordered the FDA to reconsider its 2006 decision to allow
only women 18 and older to get Plan B without a prescription. 
The court also ordered the agency to make Plan B available without a
prescription to 17 year olds within in 30 days. 

The judge in the case said that the
FDA had over the years unjustifiably delayed issuing a determination
on whether the contraceptive should be sold over-the-counter, and when
the agency was finally pushed into a political corner, it approved Plan
B only for 18 and older, despite their own scientists having found it
safe and effective for all age groups. With this ruling we have succeeded
in expanding access and hope to ultimately make it fully available to
all women.

But emergency contraception is still
difficult to access for many groups of women, including the more than
200,000 women serving in the Armed Services. It’s excluded from the
list of what military facilities, including the primary stores where
families shop, are required to stock.  That can be particularly
challenging for women and families who are based overseas and rely solely
on those facilities to buy over-the-counter drugs. More than 160,500
American female soldiers have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle
East since the war began in 2003.  According to a 2007 Department of Defense
Report
, there were 2,688
reported sexual assaults involving military personnel in 2007. Why
would the government limit these women’s ability to prevent unintended
pregnancies?

This is undoubtedly another example
of the Bush administration playing politics with women’s health. 
In 2002, the Department of Defense, relying on its technical experts,
initially approved emergency contraception for its Basic Care Formulary,
which would have required that it be stocked at all military treatment
facilities. That approval was quickly rescinded when it reached the
radar of political appointees. Uncannily, it sounds like what was going
on at the FDA:  scientists support access to emergency contraception
and political pressure shuts it down. Now, it’s available only at
those military health facilities that decide to make it available. In
the meantime, the lack of the contraceptive doubly victimizes servicewomen
who experience sexual assault – some of whom suffer from trauma serious
enough to impair their military careers.

In the last Congress, then-Senator
Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), introduced
legislation that would have required full access to emergency contraception
for servicewomen at all U.S. military health care facilities around
the world.  We no longer, however, need to wait for Congressional
action to right this wrong. President Obama has promised to restore
scientific integrity to government actions in his administration.

Join me in calling on President Obama
to direct Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, to make Plan B available
to our servicewomen. Click
here to send President Obama a message.
 

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  • invalid-0

    EC is already offered to female service members. It was one of the first things they told us checking into our training/units. It is extremely available with no questions asked. Making it MORE available will not have an impact on a woman’s response to sexual assault. The solution is the rule of law (UCMJ) not more birth control.

    marine chic

  • invalid-0

    In response to Marine Chic’s comment, the Center for Reproductive Rights is glad to see some units are providing emergency contraception to their female service members, but because the medication is part of basic reproductive healthcare, it should not be excluded from military health facilities and ad hoc distribution does not ensure adequate access.

  • http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com invalid-0

    Contraception should be available to everyone and extra efforts must be made to get the contraceptives to hard to reach communities, military women included. Currently at On The Issues Magazine we have an article by Susan Yanow, “Health Care ‘Reform’ Is Not Enough.” In the piece, Yanow says that we need to revolutionize the current system and only then can it really serve women in the best way possible. We all need to work on actualizing this!

    http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/2009winter/2009winter_2.php

  • http://www.health.mil/Debates/Debate.aspx?ID=16 invalid-0

    Hi – This subject is this month’s topic on the Military Health System’s Healthy Debates blog:

    We welcome your thoughts and ideas.

  • http://www.astonishrealestate.com invalid-0

    Example of the Bush administration playing politics with women’s health. In 2002, the Department of Defense, relying on its technical experts, initially approved emergency contraception for its Basic Care Formulary, which would have required that it be stocked at all military treatment facilities. That approval was quickly rescinded when it reached the radar of political appointees. Uncannily, it sounds like what was going on at the FDA: scientists support access to emergency contraception and political pressure shuts it down. Now, it’s available only at those military health facilities that decide to make it available

  • http://www.managementdynamics.info invalid-0

    We need to revolutionize the current system and only then can it really serve women in the best way possible.

  • http://www.myspace.com/blueinmo invalid-0

    As a 51 year old female who saw the laws change with Roe I am just sick and tired of Religious leaders, politicians, men and other women sticking their noses up my vagina and into my uterus!

    My body is NOT a political or religious hostage!

    I am the ruler of my body and I WILL have dominion over it!

    Hate abortion? Don’t have one!

    Hate abortion? Get a vasectomy!

    PRO-LIFE / PRO-WAR??? MAKE UP YOUR MIND!

    MYOB= Mind your own business!

  • http://albuterolshop.com invalid-0

    I’m with you. We really need to change the situation