Anti-Plan B-ers Shoot Themselves in the Foot


The Baptist Press half-heartedly argues against the extension of Plan B’s over-the-counter status to 17-year-olds. After reminding us that Plan B causes abortions and making groundless arguments about ease and frequency of use of the drug, the article concludes, surprisingly, with the FDA’s original finding: that the drug is just as safe for 17-year-olds as it is for 18-year-olds. 

The effect of these facts is to undermine the Baptist Press’s entire argument and to reveal the real divide in this debate: those who support the well-being of teenage girls, and those who pursue an anti-choice and anti-contraception agenda so inflexible that it hinders its own aims. Opponents of Plan B claim that the drug causes abortion. The drug does one of three things: it inhibits ovulation, or it prevents an egg from being fertilized, or it prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The third way of working is most offensive to the drug’s opponents; though the fertilized egg is not yet implanted, and thus not an embryo, some people still consider it a living thing. 

Those who believe that life begins at fertilization won’t budge on this. But by slinging around the phrase “abortion-causing,” they’ve helped create great misunderstanding of Plan B among people who don’t share their definition of when life begins. People often confuse Plan B with RU-486, which causes chemical abortion.

Perhaps more significantly, anti-Plan B-ers are neglecting their purported aim of preventing abortions. Their thinking is that an abortion is an abortion: that preventing fertilization is just as reprehensible as aborting a fetus. But I find it hard to believe that they have no sense of degree—that a not-yet-fetus should be defended at the cost of a weeks-old fetus. Steven Waldman gets into this in a piece which argues that the focus of the abortion debate should be timing. While I don’t agree with all his points, he’s undoubtedly right in that we’ll never meet each other on the question of when life begins. It’s more likely that many of us can agree that Plan B—whether you think it prevents pregnancy or "causes abortion"—is preferable to the abortion of a fetus. 

This is, after all, why Plan B was developed in the first place. Let’s not forget that demand for drugs comes from the ground up. Women wanted an option before abortion. They want to prevent abortions. So why are some pro-lifers so hostile to Plan B? Why are they shooting themselves in the foot?

Their purported arguments can be dispensed with quickly. They appeal to the parent-child relationship. One particularly clumsy argument claims that if high school girls can’t get aspirin from a school nurse without parental permission, then they shouldn’t be allowed access to Plan B. But of course, Plan B is not being dispensed by a school nurse—it’s sold in pharmacies, where girls of any age have long been allowed to buy aspirin and far more dangerous substances without parental consent. Let’s not forget that 17-year-old girls can buy cigarettes in these same pharmacies.

Wendy Wright reverts to her time-worn argument for “women’s health.” She turns reality on its head by calling the Judge Korman’s March order (to grant access to 17-year-olds) and the Obama administration’s acceptance of the order “political,” when Korman was undoing a blatantly political, and scientifically irresponsible, maneuver by the FDA in 2004 Then she claims that we’re all going to start using Plan B as birth control: 

"Pregnancy counselors report that women are relying on Plan B as a regular form of birth control because it is easy to get," she said. "They are not aware that it is less effective than other methods of birth control and that it has not been tested to determine the effects of using it multiple times."

While a “pregnancy counselor” is, in theory, a wonderful idea, it’s code for an organization that uses intimidation and false data to prevent a woman from having an abortion, regardless of her situation or beliefs. These pregnancy counselors are committed to manipulation and distortion to further the anti-choice agenda. Even if you didn’t know that, could you possibly believe that women would use Plan B as their primary form of contraception? The cost alone, about 40 dollars, is prohibitive, and even it if came down in price—and let’s hope it does—there is no way it could ever compete with condoms or birth control pills as an economically feasible method. More importantly, it’s hard on your body. It’s not easy to incorporate into your life, day after day. With easier, cheaper, more comfortable methods of birth control available, there’s no reason any woman would “rely on” Plan B. 

The title of the Baptist Press’s article is “Plan B Decision Violates Parent-Child Relationship,” but the article fails, finally, to make any convincing argument against giving Plan B access to 17-year-olds. What is does show is that the age-based denial of Plan B for the past five years violates reason and medical wisdom. And it reminds me that we’re still neglecting those under 17 (as this doctor points out in the New Haven Register). Younger teenagers need more help, not less, in preventing unplanned pregnancies.

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  • amanda-marcotte

    There is no scientific evidence for the claims that birth control pills, including emergency contraception, work by sloughing off fertilized eggs.  The more science learns about how conception works, the more obvious it is that the pills only work by preventing fertilization.  If Plan B worked that way, I’d still support it.  But it doesn’t, and there’s no reason that a person who has moral misgivings about killing a fertilized egg should hesitate to use it.  It works on the same principle as a condom, which is preventing egg from meeting sperm.

  • invalid-0

    You said that younger teenagers need as much help as we can give them in preventing unplanned pregnancies. Is allowing 17-year olds to buy this drug without the consent of a guardian or physician really helping them as much as possible? I see it as an easy way out. What harm would be done if these girls were required to talk to a physician before purchase. If we give teenagers the easiest way out, then we are really promoting more ignorance of the subject. Our society is full of easy ways out, and the easy way out is the quickest way towards ignorance. Allowing 17-year olds to purchase Plan B may be a very beneficial policy, but giving them the ability to do so without thought or professional advice is dangerous to our society no matter how safe it is for the individual.

    • invalid-0

      As stupid as this sounds, some teenS would rather not tell their parents and let them just find out that, oops they’re pregnant before they talk to you within 72 hours. Kids, teens, whatever don’t want to talk to you about their last night escapade, no matter how it went down. It seems like it is just assumed that every mistake is an instance of ignorance, sometimes you can do things right and things go wrong, or you just do them wrong, or you were taken advantage of. In any case the likely hood of you finding out about it in the next critical 72 hours is highly unlikely. Congratulations on soon arriving grandchild!! I’ve taken the plan B before as an adult acting responsibly sometimes you don’t have time for appointments and trust me there’s nothing that a doctor is going to tell your child that a pharmacist can’t. One last thing, for those of you who are so concerned about your children lacking education and counsel on sex, maybe you should stop expecting the doctors to do it or waiting until an extreme situation occurs to TALK TO YOUR OWN CHILDREN!!!

  • invalid-0

    What harm would be done if these girls were required to talk to a physician before purchase.

    Have you forgotten that Plan B has to be taken within 72 hours of intercourse in order to be effective? You want to make a woman have to schedule a doctor’s appointment within that time? I can’t even get an appointment with my GP in less than a month!

    If we give teenagers the easiest way out, then we are really promoting more ignorance of the subject. Our society is full of easy ways out, and the easy way out is the quickest way towards ignorance.

    What’s wrong with the “easy way out?” We have washing machines as an “easy way out” from having to wash clothes by hand. We have cars and buses as an “easy way out” from having to walk. Sure, it may make us ignorant of certain things, but I’m happy to go not knowing the first thing about candlemaking—and I’m sure young women will be happy to put off knowing about pregnancy and childbirth.

    Allowing 17-year olds to purchase Plan B may be a very beneficial policy, but giving them the ability to do so without thought or professional advice is dangerous to our society no matter how safe it is for the individual.

    Name me one way that 17-year-olds getting Plan B is “dangerous to our society.” (Here’s a hint: They can already buy condoms and get hormonal birth control.)

  • invalid-0

    “You want to make a woman have to schedule a doctor’s appointment within that time?”

    No i want to make girls that are not yet grown women consult an adult or physician before purchasing plan b. If a responsible adult knows about the girl’s situation they will be able to help the girl not make the mistake again, becuase everyone knows Plan B won’t work every time.

    “I’m sure young women will be happy to put off knowing about pregnancy and childbirth.”

    Really?? Thats great knowledge for a young woman to put off knowing. Unless these women are willing to get tubal ligations or their partners vasectomies, they should not be engaging in sexual behavior without knowing anything pregnancies or childbirth. It these teens are to be considered women they should be responsible for their actions and that includes knowing what they are getting themselves into. Knowing about your body is much different than knowing about candlemaking. You have no choice what body you get, you can choose what career you want.

    “Name me one way that 17-year-olds getting Plan B is “dangerous to our society.””

    The danger that i mean is the ever increasing ignorance that our society has about it’s own world. People try to fix everything with money and technology. The biggest problems in our world cannot be solved with technology, but that is how we try to solve them. Yeah we may know more about electricity, chemistry, mathematics, money, biology, etc, but people are losing sight of the beauty of this world that is knowledge. We have so much in front of us to learn that we simply overlook. The unrestricted sale of Plan B will not help this clueless world get the clue.

    Thanks for your arguments on this, I like seeing everyone’s veiws compared to mine!

  • invalid-0

    No i want to make girls that are not yet grown women consult an adult or physician before purchasing plan b. If a responsible adult knows about the girl’s situation they will be able to help the girl not make the mistake again

    How nice that you want to make Plan B not available OTC so that young women can get “the talk” first. We should do the same thing with traffic accidents—if you get injured in a crash, then you have to take a refresher driving course before getting medical attention.

    becuase everyone knows Plan B won’t work every time.

    Yes, because if obstacles are placed in front of women getting it as soon as possible, that they miss the 72-hour window, then it certainly won’t work.

    Really?? Thats great knowledge for a young woman to put off knowing. Unless these women are willing to get tubal ligations or their partners vasectomies, they should not be engaging in sexual behavior without knowing anything pregnancies or childbirth. It these teens are to be considered women they should be responsible for their actions and that includes knowing what they are getting themselves into.

    Oh, they know what may happen. Why do you think they want Plan B in the first place? What they can do without, however, is firsthand knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth.

    The danger that i mean is the ever increasing ignorance that our society has about it’s own world. People try to fix everything with money and technology. The biggest problems in our world cannot be solved with technology, but that is how we try to solve them. Yeah we may know more about electricity, chemistry, mathematics, money, biology, etc, but people are losing sight of the beauty of this world that is knowledge. We have so much in front of us to learn that we simply overlook. The unrestricted sale of Plan B will not help this clueless world get the clue.

    Buddy, if you want to make people hip to your way of thinking, then go write a book, or become a motivational speaker. The law is not the place to make people see “the beauty of this world that is knowledge.” How would you like it if this guy wrote his philosophy into law, and you had to follow it?