In Astounding Move, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Overrules FDA Recommendation to Make Plan B Over-the-Counter


See all our coverage of the Administration’s 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

This article was corrected at 1:15 pm, Thursday, December 8th, 2011.  The earlier version incorrectly stated that EC was available for women ages 18 and older without prescription.  It is available without prescription for women 17 and older.

In what can only be called an astounding move by an Administration that pledged on inauguration day that medical and health decisions would be based on fact not ideology and for which women are a major constituency, today Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) overruled a much-awaited decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception (EC) available over-the-counter (OTC) to women of all ages.

According to the New York Times, “no health secretary has ever [overruled an FDA decision] before.”

EC has been available over-the-counter for women ages 17 and older for at least two years.  The FDA has been further reviewing data on whether the method should be available OTC without a prescription to those age 17 and younger at risk from unprotected intercourse.

In a statement this afternoon FDA underscored that it “had been carefully evaluating for over a decade whether emergency contraceptives containing levonorgestrel, such as Plan B One-Step, are safe and effective for nonprescription use to reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse.”

Experts, noted the statement, “including obstetrician/gynecologists and pediatricians, reviewed the totality of the data and agreed that it met the regulatory standard for a nonprescription drug and that Plan B One-Step should be approved for all females of child-bearing potential.”

“I reviewed and thoughtfully considered the data, clinical information, and analysis provided by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER),” wrote Dr. Margaret Hamburg, head of the FDA and author of the statement, “and I agree with the Center that there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.”

However, she wrote:

[T]this morning I received a memorandum from the Secretary of Health and Human Services invoking her authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to execute its provisions and stating that she does not agree with the Agency’s decision to allow the marketing of Plan B One-Step nonprescription for all females of child-bearing potential. Because of her disagreement with FDA’s determination, the Secretary has directed me to issue a complete response letter, which means that the supplement for nonprescription use in females under the age of 17 is not approved.  Following Secretary Sebelius’s direction, FDA sent the complete response letter to Teva today.  Plan B One-Step will remain on the market and will remain available for all ages, but a prescription will continue to be required for females under the age of 17.

Why?

I have one word. P.O.L.I.T.I.C.S.

If we have been reminded of one thing in the past several months, it is that politicians and religious leaders alike will, when it suits them, marginalize the rights and needs of women to advance their own interests and need for power. And somewhere, someone in the Obama Administration, perhaps the president himself, gave the cue to HHS to overrule the FDA decision. And clearly, as she sometimes did as governor of Kansas, Sebelius did the deed.

Because apparently the health and rights of women do not matter, but placating the far right does. Because apparently helping teens actually prevent unintended pregnancies isn’t an authentic a goal of this administration. Perhaps it was among the topics on which President Obama came to “understand the concerns of Catholics [read the 281 bishops],” as Archbishop Timothy Dolan assured the New York Times after his private meeting with the president.

Because the evidence is indisputably in favor of the FDA’s decision

CDER reviewed all the evidence on use of EC by younger women. Its findings?

CDER carefully considered whether younger females were able to understand how to use Plan B One-Step.  Based on the information submitted to the agency, CDER determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.  [Emphasis added.]

But no amount of proof it seems can make up for the fact that, despite all the evidence, even President Obama and Secretary Sebelius appear to think young women are too stupid to make their own decisions or that they are just chum to be thrown to the religious right in an election year.

As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs the far right?

******************

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  • jill-stanek

    Jodi, let me start by saying I’m as shocked as you are, although in the opposite direction.

    Nevertheless, you neglected to link to Sebelius’ letter explaining her reason for overruling the FDA…

    http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2011pres/12/20111207a.pdf

    … which was that no study data has been submitted showing the impact, or lack thereof, of megadoses of female steroids on the adolescent female body.

  • donnag

    Have a rather significant effect on adolescent female bodies.  Just saying.

  • ray984954

    I fail to understand why this decision that goes against half of the population, in the sense that the ones affected are all  females, can in any way be justified except as was pointed out POLITICS. Rethugnuts want for every regulation implemented by the science based Federal gov’t agencies to go through the Congress. Godalmighty the legislative body is so totally screwed as it is and ties up everything coming through there, like judge appointments and agency heads the Senate needs to approve of, and the nonsense of adding irrelevant amendments just to thwart the process against the other party, and so, nothing could be done. The Congress right now as it is cannot even agree that a stimulus plan worked or not(it did), or even if the sun rises in the east or not, so how could they come to terms and agree a regulation to protect the public should be used or not. It would have added false concerns to delay the process and all due to, yes, POLITICS!!

    I think all women affected by this Plan B should now get a huge wet kiss from Sebelius cuz’ they’ve alreafdy been screwed.

  • colleen

    Social conservatives will regulate ‘the female body’ (as Ms Stanek refers to us) untll we have a maternal mortality rate to rival Afghanistan. The regulations they oppose are those prevent  them from stealing our money, being forced to support their ugly excuse for  religion and, of course, our children’s futures. The Catholic Bishop lobbyists are also interested in decreasing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse so they won’t be held responsible in any way for their traditional  institutional policies dictating the enablement and protection of pedophile employees.



  • goatini

    I think the Rethugs and the forced-birthers wouldn’t be moved by increased maternal mortality rates in the US.  I’ve done some deep thinking this year trying to understand, from a practical standpoint, exactly why the Catholic Church REALLY has such a stake in prohibiting contraception and pregnancy termination, and why it has such a depraved indifference to female life.  It finally dawned on me that (1) women are livestock; (2) livestock are utterly replaceable; (3) livestock that doesn’t breed successfully either dies in the process or is sold to be rendered; (4) therefore, maternal mortality = Catholic divorce.  If your cow can’t successfully breed, let it die and get another one.  If your chattel property aka “wife” can’t successfully breed, let her die and get another one.  And incidentally, if you repeatedly breed livestock with no opportunity for sufficient recovery from the severe physical stress and injury of the birth event, they die faster.  Hence, the Catholic proscription of contraception – make sure that the chattel property “wife” remains in a more or less constant state of pregnancy.  

  • ljean8080

    FOR females 16 and over.younger you need a prescription.

  • colleen

    I’ve done some deep thinking this year trying to understand, from a practical standpoint, exactly why the Catholic Church REALLY has such a stake in prohibiting contraception and pregnancy termination, and why it has such a depraved indifference to female life.

     



    I think those are excellent things to ponder because it’s important to understand your enemy. I would say that their current obsession with fetuses and birth control is just the latest chapter in the centuries of abuse the Catholic church has been heaping on women for a very long time. I wonder if the hierarchy is capable of recognizing this (I suspect not) . I also wonder if they are particularly inclined towards practicality as a virtue. The ‘pro-life’ movement certainly is not.

    I believe that the Church and particularly the USCCB, are primarily motivated by three things, the desire for political power, the desire for money, and by fear. The present day institutional  church has and does survive and thrive in both neo-feudal and fascist societies. The church well understands how to maintain power and status in military dictatorships. In South America some (wealthy) families have one son an officer and another son with a vocation. Democracies, however, breed dangerous ideas: the earth revolves around the sun, women’s rights, freedom of conscience, the church is not above the law. Those sorts of ideas.

     

    The Church has always been frightened of women and rightly so.

     

  • crowepps

    Exactly how do you think a study should be designed to study the safety and effectiveness of a medication for adolescent females who are too young to be legally having sex?  Once their sexual activity is confirmed, and they are identified as victims of child sexual abuse, it would be necessary to report their activity to the police, and once they’re sent off to reform school to be punished for being promiscuous, they would  no longer need the drug and it would be unethical to continue giving it to them.

    I suppose you could set up a large double blind study where girls who do not actually need the medication at all are randomly given “megadoses of female steroids”, and then wait to see what happens, but that doesn’t sound ethical either.

    Or you could do what the FDA did and rely on the fact that tens of thousands of adolescents have been prescribed Plan B and there have been zero problems reported as a result.

  • crowepps

    That’s the only reason women exist, so men will have something to use to grow their sperm in and make little copies of themselves.

  • grizabella

    no study data has been submitted showing the impact, or lack thereof, of megadoses of female steroids on the adolescent female body

     

    If the safety of drugs is the major concern here, should we remove aspirin from being sold over the counter? If the (unsubstantiated) possibility of dangerous side effects in 11 year olds is enough to prevent Plan-B from being sold over the counter, then surely the demonstrated association between aspirin and Reye’s syndrome in children and teens should disqualify it from OTC status.

     

    Unless of course our concerns are not with the safety of drugs when taken by children, but rather with punishing girls for having sex we don’t approve of.

  • freetobe

    I never liked politics or politicians I grew up around this and let me tell you they cannot be trusted EVER. Besides all that what else do we women have to protect our rights? Two parties controlled by the corporations and the lobbyists and thanks to the awful Citizens United law upended by the incredibly far right Supreme court it is going to be even worse.

    I suggest women form their own party because it is very clear if we do not we many lose our right to vote. if you have not already noticed the left keeps caving into the extreme right on all womens issues,environmental issues, food safety issues I could go on and on. The democrats are actually Republicans of the past. Nixon wouild look like a lefty in todays GOP.

    The country is heading farther right every day and even in some parts of the world this frustrating phenonmenom is occuring. As life gets harder women and children once again become even more invisible. The democrats used to protect womens issues. NOt anymore and I blme this on women themselves. The right is winning the war on womens right to control our own bodies because they are simply louder, more obnoxious and intimidating. Women who often work a ten rig circus everyday do not have time to stick up for their own rights and no man is going to do it obviously. So it is now up to all the women in this country to do something drastic to get attention to the facts: Women are still not guarneteed equal rights in so called free country.

     

  • goatini

    as it applies to reproductive healthcare continues to regress at this rate, we’ll be back to when people believed that it was the sperm that contained “life” and not the egg – back when each spermatazoan had a little homunculus inside that carried the “personhood”.

     

    Dya think the forced-birthers would then leave us alone and go harass, stalk and intimidate the men instead?

  • littleblue

    The problem is the Dems know we women will just hold our noses and vote for them because the alternative is so much worse.  They don’t actually have to do anything to win our vote.   Maybe we should all consider withholding our votes for a couple of election cycles and see if it changes anything? 

     

    Really… what do we expect?  Obama just spent weeks placating the Catholic Bishops.  NO WAY could he let Plan B go OTC now – that would’ve made all his previous negotiations with them null and void.  Unfortunately for us, it should have been obvious.

  • freetobe

    women should just start crossing their legs everytime men want sex! Hey it has worked in other countries what have we got to lose anymore, anyhow?

    I am holding my vote for them for sure. I have had it with them all. There is one little problem. If I do not vote I cannot cantinue my work for helping animals as unfortunatley I have to deall with the useless congress and senate over animal rights as well. Sigh a conundrum for sure.

    Obama is no friend to animals either as he has just demonstrated by allowing horses to once again be slaughtered in this country MAD AS HELL!!!

  • halli620

    I’m confused because no possible scenarios where a doctor wouldn’t prescribe it have been offered. If there aren’t any, then of course it doesn’t make sense to be prescription only, but some more information on this would be helpful.

  • jennifer-starr

    It’s not so much to do with doctors who won’t prescribe as it is with pharmacists who might refuse to fill and/or refer the prescription due to their so-called ‘conscience’. If it’s offered over the counter, women can bypass that sort of harassment. 

  • ljean8080

    is not a teenager.

  • jennifer-starr

    No an 11-year-old is not a teenager. But since menstruation can occur at any time between the ages of nine and 16,  an 11 year old might be able to get pregnant.  And I think it would be cruel to force a child to go through a pregnancy, don’t you? 

  • crowepps

    The first is so he can explain how to take a pill in really really easy words to teen girls presumed to be too stupid to know how to swallow a pill.

    The second is to investigate to see with whom the girl is having sex so he can report her ‘abuse’ to the police (this investigatory role likely preventing her from even making an appointment).

    And the third is to add just enough expense and embarrasment so that, *cough* she won’t have sex in the first place *cough*cough* (she doesn’t use birth control and ends up with the pregnancy Badge of Shame identifying her ‘sin’ so she can be blamed and shamed).

  • crowepps

    What’s the difference between not voting and not being able to vote?  The Republicans don’t want us to vote.

     

    If we don’t keep the Democrats in office, then the misogynist Republicans who think we’re breeding stock will be in office.

     

    The Democrats betray our interests and make our lives more difficult than they need to be.  The Republicans plan to take away our money and our vote and our freedom, make us dependent on men so we can’t escape abuse, steal our children for the adoption industry, and let the Bishops kill us if we have pregnancy complications.

  • julie-watkins

    I vote, but I don’t canvass.

    Democrats that do anything do so because people are protesting or boycotting, etc., and generally out making a nusance. There’s a whole bunch of people in the 1% who want sheeple to think that the only think they can do is vote. I have at least 3 time been one of hundreds crowding the city council chambers at council meeting after police beat up or killed another kid. (The dead kid, 2 years ago, was 14 — didn’t look older — got killed in daytime accidentially & the police officer didn’t go to trial for involuntary manslaughter.) Which has, grudgingly, caused some changes.

    I don’t know what’s the right action for reproductive rights — most of the decisions get done at state or nation level. It’s often easier to impact on a local level. :-(

     

  • wanamoka

    I believe in choice, but allowing this pill means that your tween/teen whose frontal lobe brain is not fully developed until age 25 is having unprotected sex.  

    https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124119468

    According to my local gynecologist, the amount of STD’s  in teen world is astounding. Chlamydia is off the charts.  

    This pill will also give predators who have access to your daughters an excuse to abuse at will. 

    I also see that younger girls will be freer with their bodies and use it to earn money.

    Teen pregnancy dropped to nearly zero in our community by doing one thing, separating the 9th graders from 10th, 11 and 12th graders.  This was done because of space, but the unexpected results were quite remarkable.

    xenoestrogens in the environment and food supply are also causing girls to develop at a faster rate than they normally would.

    We talk about womens rights, protection for women til we are blue in the face.  But by allowing this to pass I think we would be hurting our daughters.  The point is to educate instead of being like the closed minded who think abstinence works.

    It is our responsibilty as parents to take care of our children, not throw them to the wolves.

     

     

  • ljean8080

    with adults having sex with children?you would never report an abuser?

  • littleblue

    While I can certainly understand the sentiment of withholding sex, this is ultimately a sexist response to sexism.  If the law and its politicians don’t recognize women as, first and foremost, self-determining human beings with full citizenship, then using female sexuality as a commodity to leverage for political gain will only reinforce the idea that we are women first and foremost.

  • katie-0

    I believe in choice, but allowing this pill means that your tween/teen whose frontal lobe brain is not fully developed until age 25 is having unprotected sex.  

     

    So untrue!  BC can easily be misused (name me a woman who has never forgotten her pill!) and it can fail (I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of a broken condom, and I have several friends who would say the same!).  Using BC does not mean that one cannot become pregnant.  Ergo, it cannot be assumed that every teenage pregnancy is the result of unprotected sex.

    It is absolutely our responsibility to educate our children about sex, but we cannot expect mere education will protect them from all undesired consequences of sex.  People make mistakes.  Methods fails.  Sex assault happens.  All are unfortunate parts of life, but all are absolutely reality. 

    Making Plan B accessible to all child-bearing women is the right thing to do.  It’s not supposed to be used as BC – it’s your “Plan B” when your BC Plan A didn’t work out.  That’s the lesson that young people need to learn.

  • katie-0

    I believe in choice, but allowing this pill means that your tween/teen whose frontal lobe brain is not fully developed until age 25 is having unprotected sex.  

     

    So untrue!  BC can easily be misused (name me a woman who has never forgotten her pill!) and it can fail (I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of a broken condom, and I have several friends who would say the same!).  Using BC does not mean that one cannot become pregnant.  Ergo, it cannot be assumed that every teenage pregnancy is the result of unprotected sex.

    It is absolutely our responsibility to educate our children about sex, but we cannot expect mere education will protect them from all undesired consequences of sex.  People make mistakes.  Methods fail.  Sex assault happens.  All are unfortunate parts of life.  But all can be a woman’s reality. 

    Making Plan B accessible to all child-bearing women is the right thing to do.  It’s not supposed to be used as BC – it’s your “Plan B” when your BC Plan A didn’t work out.  That’s the lesson that young people need to learn.

  • jennifer-starr

    Sorry, but the fact that you don’t let them have access to emergency contraception over the counter isn’t going to stop teens from having sex. You just said, in fact, that their frontal lobes aren’t fully developed, so you really think that an impulsive teen will say “No, I can’t have sex with you because I can’t get EC over the counter.” I mean really?   And  the idea that you’re somehow preventing predators by denying EC to their victims–that’s just plain nonsensical–unless you’re of the bizarre school of thought that believes a child must be forced to carry a pregnancy as ‘evidence’.  Ridiculous. As is the notion that having access to these pills is going to cause your teen to sell her body for money. 

    You talk about education, but at the same time you seem to hold to the bizarre notion that talking to teens about protection or guaranteeing them access to said protection is going to make them run out and start doing it. “Good heavens, let’s not talk to them about sex–they might run out and try it!” But studies show time after time that protection and comprehensive sex education prevents unwanted pregnancies.

    As stated time and time again, the pill does nothing to  prevent STDs. What it does prevent is pregnancy. Barrier methods, such as condoms  of the male and female variety, can prevent STDs and pregnancies when used correctly, and teens should be taught to do so.  I know this makes the Pat Robertsons of the world start foaming at the mouth, but so be it. 

    Because of comprehensive sex education in both junior high and high school in the mid to late ’80s, I made the personal decision to abstain. But the fact is that many teens will not.  So the best thing we can do is make sure they know how to protect themselves, they’re armed with facts, and we keep the lines of communication open. 

     

  • littleblue

    I get it.  Really I do.  But I’m at the point where I think as a political group women need to lose a few battles/elections in order to drive the left back at least into the blue.  The older I get, the more I realize I’m voting in a one-issue manner – trying to strategize with my one vote for all the pro-peace/social and economic justice/environment candidates out there does nothing when they throw me as a person under the bus again and again and again.  As I said above, there really is no political will to respect women as self-determining full citizens under the law, and it’s only getting worse with this slide into nativism and nationalism and gender essentialism across the globe due to economy’s stranglehold on our fears.  And I don’t buy for a second this is Sebelius’ doing – she’s the one who has been saying that there’s an all out war on women for the past two years.  It’s Obama cannot afford to let this very simple and clear-cut issue come to fruition.  This was a top down decision.

  • katie-0

    Maybe I’ve lost my head a little because I am so angry with this administration’s abandonment of women.  I wrote President Obama after his meeting with the USCCB and said that I honestly felt that if he ceded to their demands, I’d be without a candidate.  I feel that way now, and I know I’m not alone.  Yet, do we really have a choice but to vote for him next year?  Each of the Republican candidates would do more harm than would President Obama.  Is there a way to effectively tell him that he’s not acting in the best interests of American women while also protecting the Oval Office from the current field of Republican candidates?  I am fully cognizant that the following is a fantasy, but wouldn’t it be something if we, the 51%, would collectively stand up to the bullying by A) refusing to donate to the President’s campaign – why financially stand by a man who does not stand by us? – and B) writing in Hillary Clinton in 2012?  She who could be President would not abandon her fellow women, I just couldn’t see it happening…. 

  • prochoiceferret

    I believe in choice, but allowing this pill means that your tween/teen whose frontal lobe brain is not fully developed until age 25 is having unprotected sex.

     

    Funnily enough, not allowing this pill also means that your tween/teen whose frontal lobe brain is not fully developed until age 25 is having unprotected sex. Except that they’ll have a harder time choosing not to become pregnant.

     

    According to my local gynecologist, the amount of STD’s  in teen world is astounding. Chlamydia is off the charts.

     

    So you support comprehensive sexual education in schools, then?

     

    This pill will also give predators who have access to your daughters an excuse to abuse at will.

     

    “Hi there. Sorry I sexually abused your daughter and all, but hey, Plan B is now available without a prescription for young women 16 and under! How could my penis entering your daughter’s tight, nubile vaginal canal not be a logical consequence of that??”

     

    I also see that younger girls will be freer with their bodies and use it to earn money.

     

    Curiously enough, people who have an actual clue about public health and sex work/trafficking don’t see that. You may want to get your eyes checked.

     

    Teen pregnancy dropped to nearly zero in our community by doing one thing, separating the 9th graders from 10th, 11 and 12th graders.  This was done because of space, but the unexpected results were quite remarkable.

     

    I’m sure you’ll be happy to provide links that document this, because we would find it pretty unexpected and remarkable too.

     

    xenoestrogens in the environment and food supply are also causing girls to develop at a faster rate than they normally would.

     

    So you also support tighter controls on agricultural runoff? That’s where most of those chemicals are coming from, after all.

     

    We talk about womens rights, protection for women til we are blue in the face.  But by allowing this to pass I think we would be hurting our daughters.  The point is to educate instead of being like the closed minded who think abstinence works.

     

    As I recall, it was also the “closed minded” who think that withholding contraceptive resources from young women in the hope that fear of pregnancy will keep them on the straight and narrow, works.

     

    It is our responsibilty as parents to take care of our children, not throw them to the wolves.

     

    Odd. It seems that for young women whose parents have failed to live up to that responsibility, throwing them to the wolves is exactly what you are advocating.

  • julie-watkins

    That’s what I say any time a fundraiser asks me why I’m not donating.

    I tend to donate to NNAF, food banks, heating funds & on issues where the group actually does stuff other than fancy parties.

    Anything I’ve seen that worked (or came close) isn’t election politics. It’s done on a more frequent basis than once every 2 or 4 or 6 years.

  • ack

    What magical process takes place on the 16th birthday that makes an adolescent suddenly more capable of reading instructions and swallowing a pill than she was the day before?

  • ack

    I don’t doubt that there are doctors out there refusing to write prescriptions for teenage girls, just like there are hosts of stories of women being denied access to this safe, effective, LEGAL drug at pharmacies. But to me, the problem is that there’s a HUGE access issue with requiring adolescents to see a doctor to get the prescription. There’s a lot involved there. A lot of teens would have to tell their parents in order to get to the doctor and/or use the family’s health insurance. This assumes that all parents are safe to talk to about sex, that all girls are comfortable enough to tell a parent within the 72 hour window, and that all parents will do what their daughter is asking and take her to the doctor.

     

    The 72 hour window is another problem. If a woman or girl has unprotected sex on a Friday night, she has to take the pill by Monday night. However, the pill is more effective the sooner you take it; it’s about reducing the potential ovulation time. So if a teen has unprotected sex on a Friday night, tells her mom on Saturday, but their doctor’s office isn’t open and they can’t afford to pay the $150 to go to an urgent care center, she’s stuck till Monday. That’s two days that she could ovulate and wind up pregnant, when if she had just been able to go to the pharmacy and buy it herself, she could take it on Saturday morning and voila! Super effective way to prevent ovulation and reduce her chances of becoming pregnant.

  • ack

    The negative impact of this decision affects ALL women. It was really discussed in terms of girls under 17 having access to it and a lot of pearl clutching, but I didn’t see real discussion of how making this over the counter would assist women 17 and up. Eliminating the gatekeeper would increase access for women in rural areas in particular, and for women who don’t have access to reliable transportation.

     

    Obama is on a terrible streak of turning over women’s health care decisions to anti-choicers.

  • colleen

    Yet, do we really have a choice but to vote for him next year?

    Yes, we most certainly do have that choice and I intend to exercise it.

     

    Each of the Republican candidates would do more harm than would President Obama.

    I doubt that. Obama’s policies haven’t differed substantially  from those of his predecessor. Look, it’s reasoning like this that has enabled the ‘Third Way’ Democrats to govern as horribly as they do. Every month I watch the O admin come down on the wrong side of some culture wars issue that the majority of voters disagree. Their economic and judicial policies have sparked a growing nationwide protest movement.  Obama and the current bunch in congress govern as if the views and interests of most Americans are not worthy of consideration.  In other words, they govern like Republicans.

    I’m actually more disgusted with Clinton and Obama than with the Bushes. The Bush ‘men’ were raised in wealth and privilege and were relatively honest about what they intended when they took office. Clinton and Obama were raised by single moms and understood poverty. Yet their policies and politics have consistently undermined  the entire base of the Democratic party starting with the poor. And, make no mistake, by “undermine” I mean something like, “Make basic survival increasingly problematic.”  Since 19 Democrats have undermined unions (big time), their treatment of the poor has been, IMHO, both evil and absolutely unforgivable. They have destroyed the manufacturing sector while babbling to us about a ‘service economy’ without once, to my knowledge mentioning that service jobs generally don’t pay enough to live on. It breaks my heart to see what the ‘New’ Democrats have done to our country by simply refusing to represent the social and political interests of their former base.

    Kevin Phllips says that we can have what we now have (severe and growing economic inequities) or we can have a Democracy. What we cannot have is both. I believe that the ‘leadership’ of both political parties  have decided that what ‘we’ want is widening economic inequities. So, no, I’m not voting for the fuckers.

    Is there a way to effectively tell him that he’s not acting in the best interests of American women while also protecting the Oval Office from the current field of Republican candidates?

    Occupy the DNC.

     

    Write in Mrs Clinton? seriously? I can see her abandoning women because i watched her “abandon her fellow women” repeatedly while she was a Senator. 

  • colleen

    with adults having sex with children?you would never report an abuser?

    I’ve all sorts of problems with adults using children for their sexual gratification. For instance, you know what I ask myself whenever a Sandusky or pedophile Priest story is on the news? I wonder, why wasn’t that man arrested and jailed 20 years ago. What possible set of considerations and priorities would compel someone to protect and enable someone who rapes children?

    In the Sandusky case at least 15 men have been identified as having  knowledge of Sandusky’s sexual preference. Some of those men were in law enforcement and some were in positions of authority within the University. And yet Mr Sandusky continued to  abuse children for years. 

    We see this same pattern mirrored in the continuing revelations about the Church’s increasingly well documented (in many languages!) institutional tendency to protect and enable employees who sexually, physically and emotionally abuse children.

    So, it seems to me that your question would be more easily answered in a football locker room or Conference of the USCCB where adults having sex with children is more acceptable.

    I must admit I would really love to know how large a portion of the  population finds children sexually arousing. Does anyone know of any research in this area?

     

  • colleen

    I also see that younger girls will be freer with their bodies and use it to earn money.

    Right. The only thing that prevents greedy 12 year old girls from becoming prostitutes is  fear of pregnancy.

  • prochoiceferret

    Occupy the DNC.

     

    The basic problem is the voting system. First-past-the-post, and vote-spoilage are the killer. Democrats don’t have to worry about the perfect (from our view) candidate coming along, because s/he would never get the nomination, and would never get votes from people worried that they’ll end up helping the party they really don’t want to be in power.

     

    If we had a system like Condorcet voting, or (better yet) approval voting, the spoiler calculus would be history, and people would be able to safely vote for third-party candidates without the risk of helping the other side. And in time, the Democratic Party would have to better serve their base, or end up marginalized for lack of a constituency.

     

    There are other problems with voting, of course, like campaign funding, ballot access, and Fox News. But first-past-the-post, in my view, is the lynchpin of the current rot the DNC is in.

  • sschoice

    Colleen, you asked:

    “I must admit I would really love to know how large a portion of the population finds children sexually arousing. Does anyone know of any research in this area?”

    The biggest problem with researching what proportion of society might find “children” sexually arousing is denial on the part of many people taking a survey or reporting to some authority that they find themselves sexually aroused by what someone defines as a child. The law may define a 17-year-old as a “child” but Ihat’s probably not what you mean. For most of recorded history women (and often men) were considered mature and having adult responsibilities, including those related to sexual consent and being able to give consent to marry, to what extent their consent was allowed to matter, from about puberty on, which in socieies with much poorer nutrition occured years later than it does today. So probably the best answer is that whatever that proportion is, it’ll depend on if the society accepts young people marrying, for example, and becoming sexually active in mid-adolescence, late adolesence, or if it allows for something like child marriage or polygamy which of course is much more likely to involve what most of us here would consider explotiation.

    Most people when asking the question you’re asking think of men who find adolescent girls arousing, and especially if you’re talking about girls/young women older than a few years after puberty many men would likely find them as arousing or more so than a woman a few years or more older. Whether or not that means those men are attracted to “children” maybe ought to depend more on the psychological maturity and economic independence of the adolescent — is the young woman choosing to be in the relationship to avoid some threat, expressed or implied, of abuse from the older man, or from any other party? — is the relationship supposed to be a secret between just the (presumably) adult man and the adolescent woman? — but where the law is concerned it’s mostly age and age differences that define what is possibly some sort of deviant attraction or abuse.

    It’s usually the attraction of men to younger women that’s talked about in this context, but it’s a lot less talked about that many women — maybe just as many women as men — ikewise find boys/young men of the same mid-adolescent age arousing, in much the same way that many men are attracted to girls/young women of the same age.

    For a good example of that, check out that movie we mentioned above, “Summer of ’42″:

    Summer of ‘42

    http://eddieonfilm.blogspot.com/2010/04/summer-of-42.html

    or “Coach” from 1978:

    “Coach” theatrical trailer

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v77Y2M92K1I

    IMDB listing, with link to full movie on Hulu:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077351/

    Both films were popular with relatively progressive audiences of the time — “Coach” was mostly a comedy, aimed at older teens and young adults, while “Summer of ’42” was more for boomers and children of the depression reminiscing about coming of age during WWII.  Both feature for their very different eras intellegent, sucessful young adult women having sexual relationships with mid-adolescent boys/young men (Summer of ’42) or senior high school basketball players (Coach).

    Both were acting out fantasies not only of men but many women of their time, which were probably shared by more women of any time than most would care to admit.

  • sschoice

    (we’ve posted this elsewhere, maybe someone here can comment)

    ***************

    Back about ten years ago, around the time EC was first made available OTC through PREVEN and Plan B, there was a lot of attention given to certification and training programs to both help pharmacists act as a bridge between OTC access to EC and related care that women, especially teens, would need.  But we haven’t heard much about certification in recent years. 

    Did these certification programs that — to us anyway — seemed to give significant attention to n educating pharmacists on how to talk with customers about EC and act as a bridge to other providers just disappear when Plan B went OTC, or did they maybe become something like a CME (continuing medical education) program, more about teaching simple facts about forms of EC, like a pharmacist might get from a PDR or package insert?

    We’re asking because it’s not clear if these programs still exist or if they are growing or what, from websites we’ve looked through like the American Pharmacist Association (APhA).   These programs existed  in nine states back in 2006 allowed some pharamcists, at least, to dispense EC OTC to minors, as mentioned in this 2006 statement from the APhA:

    APhA Statement on FDA’s Recent Approval of Plan B for OTC Status

    August 24, 2006

    http://www.pharmacist.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=News_Releases2&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=6569

    If we read the press releases and policy statements of other groups like American Public Health Association (a differnet group with the same acronym as the pharmacist group mentioned above), similar support and concern is expressed about minor’s access, but while it is consistently mentioned it is not much emphasized — like in the following article, for example, try searching for the few occurances of the word “age”:

    Ensuring that Individuals are Able to Obtain Contraceptives at Pharmacies

    Policy Date: 11/8/2006

    http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1335

    What is the status of certification programs that help create collaborative agreements with pharmacists who want to dispense EC OTC to minors? 

    If they still exist, are they growing?

    Would they be something that activists could help support to improve OTC access for minors?

    If so, that’s where we’d like to see a LOT more activist attention, and some of us should also be asking why we don’t see more attention there and less about outrage over “Obama” not supporting OTC EC access — helping build more of a base of support with pharmacists who actively want to help dispense EC OTC to minors seems like a much more productive way to use activist resources.

    —southern students for choice, athens

  • colleen

    SSChoice,

    Pardon me for being imprecise. When asking my question I was not thinking of “children” but, rather, children. Historical precedent is not a reliable indicator because, historically, societies have accommodated pedophiles. The introduction of 17 year olds into the discussion is a distraction and not a distraction I am interested in. Likewise the onset of menses does not automatically confer adulthood or adolescence on a 11 year old, she is still a child.

    I’m not talking about situations in which adults of either gender have sexual relationships with 17 year olds. I’m interested in the remarkable institutional tolerance, enablement and protection exhibited by the Church and, in miniature,  Penn State.

    Considering the lack of empathy towards the victims and the touching concern exhibited in both my examples towards the rapists, my sense is that a sexual attraction towards children is far more common than we have been aware. I am interested in exploring this possibility.

     

  • crowepps

    I think you’re missing something more basic.  From my experience, men who sexually abuse children are not “attracted to children”.  Instead, there are some men who are so focused on self-gratification that they will have sex with anybody, ANYBODY AT ALL who is helpless to resist them.  Men have sex with people in comas and barnyard animals and little babies and the severely handicapped.  It isn’t that they’re ‘attracted to’ but instead that they get a sick thrill out of having power over a living mastubatory object.

  • sschoice

    crowepps, what you are referring to is like the saying goes that connects animal abuse with domestic violence, “people who abuse animals rarely stop there”

  • jodi-jacobson

    I believe Kirsten Moore, an expert on EC, already responded to this elsewhere.

     

    The directions for Plan B, One Step, which involves *one* pill, are “take this pill.”  There isn’t much training needed for this and it is FAR less confusing than age- and weight-related instructions for, say, Advil.

     

    Moreover, given all the research done on whether and how teens understand Plan B, One Step (they do), this would appear not necessary.

     

     

  • sschoice

    colleen, answering your question means defining what is a “child.”  Even an adult would still be considered a “child” in the eyes of their parents.  I don’t mean for that point to be a distraction, but there are differences found all over the world in what distinguishes “adult” and “child” but one thing common the world around is assumption of responsibility by the individual in question for reproductive decisions.  I’m sure we’ll agree on that.

    You wrote in your first post: “I must admit I would really love to know how large a portion of the  population finds children sexually arousing. Does anyone know of any research in this area?”  If answering your question means you are asking about evidence-based research, like statistically valid surveys of reported sexual activity between adults and children, there’s going to be an enormous amount of bias and denial on the part of the reporters (not to mention the people in charge of the studies), who may skew their reports to fit what they think the fit the expectations of the society they are in.  Obviously, people who otherwise may appear to be healthy, responsible who may have had such thoughts may deny them or modify them to fit the expectations of others.

    The studies you’re talking about would need to look at society at large and at institutions like you referred to, and not at the population that most of the public and the media focus on, the people who the criminal justice system who are typically charged and convicted of sexual offenses.  People who are convicted for sexual offenses involving children, the typical child sex offender listed in public registries, were typically poor and not especially successful in life before they were accused of their offense, and I’d no more consider them reflective of the population at large who find children sexually arousing than I’d consider the people arrested and convicted for crack cocaine or meth reflective of the population at large who abuse similar drugs, which would include not just cocaine and amphetamines but also Provigil and Adderall…you may hear occasional mention of the injustice of disproprotionate sentences for crack cocaine you don’t hear much about how poor people who “abuse” crack and meth may be trying to self-medicate like illicit Provigil and Adderall users, because that would be sympathizing with criminal drug use, which we all know rarely occurs outside of urban ghettos and trailer parks.  And yes I’m being sarcastic there between my the last comma and the period I typed before this one.

    In your second post you wrote: “I’m interested in the remarkable institutional tolerance, enablement and protection exhibited by the Church and, in miniature,  Penn State.”  You’re right to question both and to see common structural issues between the two.  But one could take the issue of deviant sexuality out of it and just google “risk management” and get many of those questions answered.  Both institutions had policies and procedures that were supposed to protect the children involved but if we look at those policies critically we’d find they are more about risk management than victim advocacy.  Both institutions — the church establishment and the educational instution — acted very effectively and efficiently to protect the institution overall at the expense of children under their responsibility.  It’d be too cynical to say that the actions of both are simply efforts to control the cost of doing business but in practice I’d bet the economics of both have a lot in common.

    Instutional policies that prohibit sexual misconduct may do more to protect the instutution from being sued than they protect the most vulnerable that the respective instutions are supposed to be responsible for.  That’s not a very popular point of view, you won’t hear that much from mainstream media commentators, much less from consultants of various sorts that claim to help provide services and curricula to address these concerns.  I really doubt that members of either instutution, whether male or female or at high levels of responsibility or near the bottom of the organizational food chain, spend much time discussing gender, exploitation, and responsibiliy to society beyond the boundaries of their institution, it’s more about managing risk, cost, and their public image, and you won’t get much in the way of critical analysis from the mainstream media about how Penn State, for example, is managing their risk, cost, and public image, what you’ll get is reports of how everyone is on board to act in the interest of the victims — just like they were all on board before the story broke, right?

    My response to you above wasn’t meant to talk about the abuse of 11 year olds, it was to talk about the mid-adolescents and older adolescents who are more commonly involved in the cases of abuse you are talking about, whether it involves a church or an educational institution, and to question the designation of all of those individuals as “children” and all sexual activity engaged in like I was describing as “abuse.”  I think that the programs implemented in those institutions in the last few decades developed to supposedly protect those “children” and organizational subordinates from “abuse” like the fictional examples I gave from those movies do more to protect the institutions than the “children.”  Maybe that could be the subject of some evidence-based study, but I won’t expect to be seeing any studies like that in professional journals anytime soon.

    Those “children” — the adolescents I wrote about above, whether fictionalized or in real life — would be better benified if we spent more resources on making the kind of services that would benefit all adults in the their communities — like community resources for counseling, crisis intervention, and legal advocacy — and give adolescent “children” the idea that they could turn to them for help and advocacy in some ways similar to what they could get as an adult.  That was part of the goal of public services like health care services and mental health services developed after WWII — bounded in time pretty much by the two movies I referred to above, Summer of ’42 and Coach — and shaped by feminist movements which grew over the decades between.

    I don’t doubt that community resources for counseling, crisis intervention, and legal advocacy cost more than the sort of institutional programs usually created to address these issues, and it would certainly cost more in tax dollars, but if victim advocacy and social change is our goal, that’s where I think we should be going.

  • crowepps

    The point of the collaborative agreements wasn’t to restict EC access to minors, it was to ensure they interacted with professionals who would act in their best interest while enabling them to get it OTC, with few or none of the difficulties that would have been caused by having to get a prescription. 

    Your explanation is very useful, but I’ve got to say, I didn’t see anything there that addresses the fact that the science demonstrates this is not a dangerous drug and and should be freely available to those 17 and older, and there continue to be persistent reports of difficulties in dealing with pharmacists whose professionalism comes to a screeching halt as soon as a chance comes to switch instead to their preferred role of ‘self-righteous scold and moral gatekeeper humiliating women to punish sinners’.

     

    Plan B could still require a prescription for minors, the checkout clerk could ask to see ID proving age just as they do for liquor or cigarettes.  I reject the idea that in order to keep Plan B from minors, adult women must continue to beg permission from religious fanatics who feel entitled to question them about the circumstances in which they had sex, and judge whether their excuse for not wanting to be a mother is ‘worthy’.  They want to continue to keep Plan B behind the pharmacy counter?  Fine.  Make it a requirement that all pharmacists must provide it, without question, to anyone for whom it is legal.  Any pharmacist so ignorant as to confuse it with RU-486, or to believe that it ’causes abortion’, is too incompetent to safely be allowed to remain in the profession.

  • crowepps

    While counseling, crisis intervention, and legal advocacy would certainly help potential perpetrators, identifying those perpetrators requires first providing their potential victims with the necessary information so they bring offenders to everyone’s attention.  Just as my suspicions are aroused when someone objects to an anti-rape campaign by claiming ‘nobody will ever get to have sex again’ (their idea of sex is rape?!), hysterical objections to ‘good touch/bad touch’ education cause me personally to cast a very wary eye on those making the objections.  The average people doesn’t think that telling children they don’t have to submit to and should report abuse has anything to do with ‘sex’ and those who do seem likely to be abusers.

  • colleen

    colleen, answering your question means defining what is a “child.”

    It certainly appears to. So, for the sole purpose of clarifying my question, I did so.

    Even an adult would still be considered a “child” in the eyes of their parents.

    the above does not strengthen your argument.

    But one could take the issue of deviant sexuality out of it and just google “risk management” and get many of those questions answered.

    Why would I want to do that? For one thing there would be no point in having this discussion if we were to “take the issue of deviant sexuality out of it”. Indeed  I was discussing  deviant sexuality and the remarkable  tolerance exhibited towards men who rape children. Pretending that men who protect and enable pedophiles are motivated solely by concerns about litigation and protecting institutional reputations strikes me as a flawed and shallow analysis which ignores much of the available evidence. Further, they did not react “very effectively and efficiently to protect the institution”. Indeed their consistent failure to react appropriately demonstrably exacerbated the damage to their respective institutions by a factor of at least 10. Likewise, Such an explanation does not explain why the police also reacted to protect Sandusky or the multiple documented instances where the Catholic heirarchy made decisions which placed known abusers in positions of authority where they continued to rape  small children for years and years.

    I really doubt that members of either instutution, whether male or female or at high levels of responsibility or near the bottom of the organizational food chain, spend much time discussing gender, exploitation, and responsibiliy to society beyond the boundaries of their institution

    That’s a pretty revealing belief, especially considering the fact that one of the institutions we’re examining is the Catholic church and both institutions are heavily subsidized by the public.

    My response to you above wasn’t meant to talk about the abuse of 11 year olds

     you have been successful.

    it was to talk about the mid-adolescents and older adolescents who are more commonly involved in the cases of abuse you are talking about, whether it involves a church or an educational institution, and to question the designation of all of those individuals as “children” and all sexual activity engaged in like I was describing as “abuse.”

    Yes. I know. And yet the dilemmas of mid and late adolesence sexuality were clearly not my focus or, in this discussion, my interest. Particularly considering my examples, I think it was quite a stretch to assume otherwise.

  • colleen

    I understand that such men exist and indeed would say that they are a sub category of the sorts of men I’m curious about.

    My experience with child molesters  is that some of them are indeed attracted exclusively to children (sometimes one gender and/or age range) and that most are otherwise heterosexual.

    By “sexually attracted” I meant both fantasy life and physiological reaction. I did not mean “has he acted on the impulse” so much as “can he empathise with a Paul Shanley or a Jerry Sandusky”. It seems to me that many of the enabling men in my examples exhibit remarkable compassion and empathy towards the pedophiles and none at all towards their present and future child victims.

     

  • crowepps

    Seems to me their compassion and empathy is triggered by the myth that “the penis wants what the penis wants”.

    Ran across this earlier:

    http://www.19actionnews.com/story/16227746/patient-sexually-assaulted-at-akron-general-medical-center

    A 63-year old man, visiting a 75-year old neighbor in the intensive care unit, takes advantage of the fact she is gagged by her ventilator to feel her up.  Is that about ‘attraction’ or ‘desire’?  I really, truly don’t think so.

  • sschoice

    Kristen did post a comment saying that, Jodi, but she seemed to have misread our question. No doubt that even very young teens could use EC like Plan B safely as far as the drug’s effects are concerned, but they’d be better off if they were to make sure they weren’t pregnant before they took it, and if someone — a person, not just a package insert — encouraged them to get a pregnancy test soon after. That was the intent behind the collaborative agreements that were tried between pharmacists and doctors in at least nine states about ten years ago, and that’s what the question is about here.

    It’s unfortunate that that there seems to be little or no progress on that since then, and the best known efforts to make EC like Plan B accessable to all minors since then have simply involved making it available OTC with no similar collaborative involvement. The point of the collaborative agreements wasn’t to restict EC access to minors, it was to ensure they interacted with professionals who would act in their best interest while enabling them to get it OTC, with few or none of the difficulties that would have been caused by having to get a prescription. That’s certainly not going to be acceptable to anti-choice activists but it would likely reassure — and did seem to reassure — a lot of people, in particular the media who reported those stories — who have concerns about minors who use Plan B not getting adequate related care and follow-up.

    It’s interesting that for all the stories we’ve read about collaborative agreements and related certification of pharmacists and pharmacy aides that there was NOT ONE article that quoted some anti-choice party that was concerned that dispensing Plan B in that setting would cause health problems or lead to enabling abuse of exploitation of minors. Of course we’d still hear that false concern at some point but there were MANY stories in the MAINSTREAM press at the time about this. It is easy to search for those stories and it’s remarkable there was so little anti-choice opposition raised against it.

    If the prochoice movement could have gone the way of supporting and fighting where needed for collaborative agrements (and maybe we can still go that way) antis would probably have said that rogue pharmacists would act in collusion with quack doctors from local pain clinics to push Plan B as a gateway drug to Xanax and Oxycontin on unsuspecting teens, and antis would have said they’re just trying to do their part to keep kids off dope — they might even get a campaign against that written into their idea of a “balanced” comprehensive sex ed curricula — but we’d rather be arguing against that instead of dealing with concerns that a lot of lay people have about making Plan B like EC available OTC with basically no regulations, much less integration into the local health care and social services community at all.

    Making EC like Plan B legal to sell OTC to women 18 and up, and then 17 and up has been a great boon to women of that age and older and to the drug companies that produce it, but to say the least there has been less focus since then on collaborative agreements that had the potential to make it accessable to many women younger than that.

    That’s unfortunate, and it looks like the Plan B decision — and the coverage of it, and we’ve found no exception to date — seems to be more about the politics of the decision and the personalities of the politicians and political appointees involved and not about what activists ought to be doing to make Plan B available to minors OTC. But there’e no way any other politician likely to be in Obama’s place (nor Sebelius’s place) would have done something more to our liking, and scanning the emails we’ve gotten from various prochoice groups it doesn’t look like much effort was put into trying to tip the Obama administration’s latest ruling any more favorable on making EC like Plan B available OTC.

    This (in)action by the Obama administration is a reprise of what we saw in 2004 when the FDA under the Bush administration issued a “not approvable” letter for Plan B to be made available OTC. There was less in the way of serious grassroots organizing from prochoice leading up to either action than there should have been if it’s realistic to expect that Plan B should be available OTC with no restrictions — because resistance to that should be expected, even if such resistance is not scientific or questionably legal — nor any indication from either administration that they would support EC like Plan B being made available OTC to minors with no policies restricting or regulating how it would be dispensed. There were though a lot of voices and press releases after-the-fact that expressed outrage, as if they were shocked by the decisions and admistration actions, both in 2004 and this week.

    It’s not that we’re not concerned this may be a bigger setback than has been reported — this might be somethig like anti-choice legislation and court rulings that have continued to erode the protection that the Roe v Wade ruling provided, anti-choice compromises which make it progressively easier to restrict access to poor women, young women, and women who are less educated and have less support from their immediate family and community. But if that’s the case, keep in mind that those anti-choice laws and court decisions have been said by some to affirm the right of women who can afford it to make the kind of reproductive choices we say all women have the same right to make. We haven’t heard anyone say this latest administration is “saving” or affirming EC access for adult women like we’ve heard some anti-choice court rulings as “saving” Roe but maybe we should have similar concerns, the message that they support Plan B and similar forms of EC being available OTC for adult women is pretty clear.

    That’s not to say no prochoice activists were working this time on trying to get the administration to act more favorably than they did this week, we know of many who have been at active on this in the past, but there was never anything like messages or statements of any kind from this administration or from prochoice advocates that said they really expected the administration’s latest ruling to say that they’d support EC like Plan B being available OTC to all minors with no restrictions. “Ought to be” statements from people outside of the administration and evidence like on-the-record administration statements — or even “off-the-record” statements, “administration sources say” statements are very different, and there were never any of the latter that indicated any ruling different than we had from Sebelius this week.

    So we’re not surprised with the administration’s action, and we wish there were more questions raised about movment priorities that put so much emphasis on this over more realistic and succesful ways to make EC available to minors OTC.

  • sschoice

    Crowepps, it WOULD be possible to study the safety and effectiveness of a drug like Plan B on minors, including minors under the age of consent, if there was as much commitment to studying that and advocating for their access as there was to legalize access for minors under a Supreme Court precedent that one hears essentially nothing about today, Carey v Population Services International. Here’s a good history of the issues mentioning that case that in context: 

    “Minor’s Rights Versus Parental Rights: Review of Legal Issues: Privacy and Confidentiality for Minors.”

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/456472_6

    There’s a lot of people here at RH Reality Check that have read most or all of the ruling in Roe v Wade, but I bet that there aren’t many people who have read the ruling in Carey.  If anyone reading this hasn’t read Carey (or hasn’t read it in a long time) please do so, including the concurring and dissenting opinions. We circulated links about this with friends over the last few days so we’ve got some thoughts ready to share. :)

    The dissenting opinion by William Rehnquist is especially entertaining and acrid, even for Rehnquist.   Here’s the entire ruling, with links near the top of the page for the syllabus, majority opinion, concurrences, and Rehnquist’s dissent:

    Carey v. Population Services International (No. 75-443)

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0431_0678_ZS.html

    For reasons that we’re really like for pro-choice folk to learn about if they aren’t familar, the majority opinion of the court stated, as the Medscape article above describes, “The Court found minors had a fundamental right to choose “… whether to bear or beget a child.”  To say the least that was important to progressives at the time – and it seems obvious that if minors, especially intellectually “mature” younger minors, would have the right – indeed the obligation – to see medical care, like prenatal care, if they choose to carry a pregnancy to term — and if we think it’s important now we need to look at precedents for minor’s rights like this, and that would put understanding Carey in context at the top of the list.

    And unlike threats to overturn Roe v Wade, there’s no concern that Carey will be overturned and all OTC contraceptives be returned “behind the counter” like they were before ’77, like was depicted in a movie we’ll mention in a moment.

    The most talked-about (and maybe the most commonly used) contraceptive in question in Carey wasn’t Plan B or contraceptive sponges or even methods used at the time commonly by women like spermicidal foam and tablets (vaginal suppositories), it was condoms, which men and …well, if not “boys” than young adolescent males… had a long history of being able to obtain, though usually with some effort, frustration, and occasionally comedy, from drugstores, mail order companies, and as the court ruling described, restroom vending machines.  The search for condoms by adolescent boys in particular was so much a part of coming-of-age that we’d not be surprised if the 1977 Carey ruling had referenced the 1971 movie “Summer of ‘42” and it’s comedic scene where 15-year-old “Hermie” goes to a drugstore to buy some “rubbers.”

    Summer of ‘42

    http://eddieonfilm.blogspot.com/2010/04/summer-of-42.html

    We’d like for you to imagine a soft-focus, romantic comedy movie being made like “Summer of ‘42” today about a 15-year-old, especially a 15-year-old girl trying to buy Plan B, maybe after browsing the web (or surfing on her iPhone) for information, much like Hermie did with his peers and a dusty “marriage manual” for guidance in his memory from 1942.

    It’s somehow very popular and profitable today to create well-produced TV series like “Glee” depicting adolescent sexuality in a humorous and positive but unrealistic (and politically neutral) light, but it’s almost unimaginable that a movie or TV series, even an edgy, independently-produced movie or TV series, would depict young adolescent women with anything like the kind of intelligence and agency that “Summer of ‘42” depicted adolescent boys at least capable of expressing, if only as a soft-focus memory.  Not just “unimaginable,” it would be seen as threatening, if not outright illegal.

    Contraceptive methods used by adolescent women – including methods used most commonly by women in their mid-teens and even younger — of the 1970s era were involved in Carey, and neither the concurring nor the dissenting opinions addressed that the methods that minor women might use like (supposed) contraceptive suppositories in practice might well be about as ineffective as Coca-Cola douches or having sex standing up – and it was a common mistake that some teen girls made to use tablets like “Norforms” which were deodorants, not contraceptives, thinking that they’d have a contraceptive effect, an assumption that wasn’t necessarily unreasonable due to ambiguous advertising.

    Progressives on the court weren’t insensitive to issues like the ineffectiveness and inapppropriate marketing of marginally effective or ineffective OTC contraceptive methods, or the unskilled use by minors of more effective contraceptive methods, but there was MUCH more of a commitment from progressives of that era to supporting comprehensive health care for minors, which lead to creating programs like Title X and building a public health services infrastructure.  In some ways it seems like professionals and activists of the time deemed it more important than we do today for minors that to have the right to make reproductive health choices, other than necessarily abstinence, including “whether to bear or beget a child” — in part of course because many more women got pregnant, intentionally or not, when they were minors or very young adults.  Today when the word “comprehensive” is used it usually refers to sex education, which in 70s public high schools generally didn’t discuss contraception nor was it considered much of a priority to progressives of the time, at least not as much as education and services provided through clinics in the community.

    Carey set a landmark precident for minor’s access to contraception, namely for adolescents to buy condoms, contraceptive foam, and (hopefully) spermicidal tablets but it did it not seem to matter so much that some – or many, more likely – of them wouldn’t be using condoms and spermicide with a very high level of effectiveness.  It’s a misreading to think though that it didn’t matter so much to progressives that some adolescent boys and girls might use contraceptive methods in a manner that might be minimally effective not because they didn’t know or care about the consequences — they knew well and DEEPLY cared about the consequences — but there was overall a greater concern that public health services and health funding be used to reach ALL people, and not just those still in school by sex education, to inform them in a professional setting and give them access to the best contraceptive methods available at the time.

    But so much for our soft-focus trip down prochoice memory lane…

    It’s worth mentioning in passing that Sebelius wrote “About ten percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age. It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.” 

    Well, there’s much larger percentage of young adolescent males who are capable of “begetting” if not bearing children, and it’s common knowledge that that there are “significant cognitive and behavioral differences” between older adolescent boys and the youngest boys of reproductive age – but where do we hear mention or concern involving a such a population, “boys of reproductive age?”  We don’t find concern about THAT in the commentary about Plan B, either from the Obama administration or anywhere else we can find today!

    Beginning with the 1977 Carey ruling, there is an established the right for minors to access contraceptive methods over-the-counter.  It’s worth mentioning to people today concerned that minors might use Plan B like EC that the right for minors to access OTC contraceptives dates back to a time when imperfect methods and less-than-optimum use of those methods were much more common than today, and – it’s worth also mentioning – e.p.t, the first over-the-counter pregnancy test, had just gone on the market.  Use of a over-the-counter pregnancy test is highly recommended before using Plan B, to avoid the needless use of Plan B and to expidite the woman getting help for a (likely) unintended pregnancy if she’s pregnant.

    We think highly of what informed, motivated, mature minors are capable of doing regarding reproductive health choices, but we ought careful to not expect more than most are to be likely prepared for, especially more than most of them are ever likely to be prepared for given the funding priorities of the Obama administration, and the priorities of the prochoice movement today.  It’s very possible to conduct ethical studies of the use of OTC contraceptive methods by minors, though not necessarily double-blind with some minors under the age of consent deliberately given ineffective contraceptives, it’d be more like case studies of minors reporting their use of OTC methods.

    But with so little attention – though there is mention – from pro-choice advocates of problems caused by funding cuts and staff attrition for services providing comprehensive, affordable reproductive care for minors — and given that that’s more than classroom-based sex education – we think it’s likely that most younger minors would never really know about Plan B, much less how to use it effectively, anyway, even if it had been made available OTC with no restrictions or interaction with a pharmacist required.

    We wish that the Obama administration would support Plan B access for younger minors, but they haven’t ever shown an inclination to do so, and while we should be disappointed in their (in)action, we can’t be surprised they aren’t doing so now.  If we want to see the kind of pro-choice effect we’d want to see by making Plan B available to all women over-the-counter, we ought to be focusing more on advocating comprehensive access to all reproductive health services — including unbiased options counseling, and health care services that truely make it as viable of an option for minors to carry pregnancies to term and start families of their own as it would — or should — be an option for them to get access to contraception and abortion.

    It’s ironic that it seems a lot easier to support generous, easy access through insurance policies that most young adults don’t have and probably couldn’t afford with a near minimum-wage job, or access through campus health services available to only a small minority of all college students (and even fewer high school students), but there’s not nearly as much enthusiasm to support publicly funded services for young people in the community at large — even though that community, if we were to meet it’s needs, would include high school and college students.

    If the prochoice movement doesn’t have the committment to do that, we shouldn’t be surprised that a supposedly “prochoice” administration like we have takes actions like they have on Plan B, we should instead be reevaluating our priorities.

    We’d appreciate any comments from folks here about this, and what we’re suggesting pro-choice advocates should be doing.

    —southern students for choice, athens

  • sschoice

    duplicate post, please delete

  • sschoice

    duplicate post, please delete

  • ljean8080

    above a certain age otc.

  • jodi-jacobson

    honestly believe this is a total distraction, for several reasons.  One, the weight of evidence that suggests this not only is not necessary but would be used to create other unnecessary burdens. Two, as you must know, Plan B only works to prevent pregnancy and only does so if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.  Expecting that a minor  — or anyone for that matter given all the obstacles that have been put up — had unprotected sex on a Friday and is going to go trhough all sorts of hoops before Monday to get a drug that if taken on Saturday to prevent pregnancy in the first place is just yet another set of unnecessary barriers and defeats the purpose. 

    Finally if someone were pregnant, i.e. a fertilized egg had reached the uterine wall and implanted, we are talking about many days AFTER unprotected sex.  Even if someone took EC at that point, it would have NO effect of any kind on the pregnancy.  In that case there would be the usual three choices: carrying to term, abortion, or carrying to term and adopting the child out.

    I really fail to see why we are discussing these issues given the weight of evidence.  I am deeply struck by the many educated progressives who seem to want to ignore the science, but then perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised because the HPV vaccine, measles vaccinations, and other such interventions also seem to draw irrational responses from people across the political spectrum.  I am not saying you are being irrational–I am pointing to some I have seen who have no reason other than “I just don’t think they should have it,” to deny access to EC.  But I do believe your points are not effective to the purpose of making this method available to everyone.

     

    Jodi

  • ahunt

    …at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

     

    “I buried this at the end of another post, but according to the most recent data I could find, of the roughly 758,000 teen pregnancies a year 212 of these were among girls 12 and younger.   If you’re getting into a debate about Plan B and 12-year-olds you’re being played for a sucker.   The relevant Plan B debate is about 15- and 16-year olds, and people who are bringing up the 0% of teenage pregnancies among 11-year olds are trying to make paternalistic regulations seem more reasonable.  (Which, of course, should not imply that making it more difficult for the infinitesimal number of 12-year olds who get pregnant to get emergency contraception is anything but a terrible idea.)”

  • ljean8080

    nt.

  • colleen

    Thanks, aHunt.

    My apologies to all for going off topic.