Disappointed Doesn’t Cut It Anymore: A Mother’s Rebuttal of President Obama’s Plan B Politics

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

Disappointed doesn’t cut it anymore.

Disappointed, angry, dismayed — these are only some of the emotions I am feeling this afternoon after hearing President Obama’s poor excuse for restricting access to Plan B One Step.

I am also scared.

Scared about the health of my daughters.  As the mother of two daughters, just like President Obama, I try to use “common sense” as much as possible. But, also like President Obama, I am not a doctor; I am not a scientist. I use my own judgment when it comes to things I am confident I can handle — a case of the sniffles, a little cold. 

But, I also understand that it is my responsibility as a parent to know when I don’t know all the answers and it’s time to turn to experts. And that, apparently, is where the President and I disagree.

When my daughter’s pediatrician gives me medical advice, I listen. Carefully. American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine make recommendations about my daughters’ health, that matters to me. A lot. And I believe it should.

Today, President Obama has made the irresponsible – and nearly incomprehensible — decision to support HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ move to block the FDA from expanding access to Plan B One-Step emergency contraception. Whether the President’s decision was motivated by well-intentioned ignorance or political cowardice is beside the point. Either way, this move will adversely impact millions of women, particularly young women, across the country.

President Obama has decided to ignore scientific research and medical advice and has sacrificed the health of young women. And I want to know why. Why, Mr. President? Why would you reject years of research and the best scientific thinking the medical community has to offer? Why, for the first time in U.S. history, did your administration intervene to overrule the FDA’s ability to make decision about medical science?

On Monday, I was optimistic. The FDA was expected to expand the availability of Plan B One-Step, a form of back-up birth control that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if something goes wrong with regular contraception. Indeed, the FDA tried to do just that: make Plan B One-Step available to all women — without age restrictions and without needing a prescription. If either of my daughters ever needs back-up birth control, I hope I will be among the first to know and I would help them in whatever way I could. But, life is not always as we want it to be, and therefore, it is essential that young people have the access to the information and services they need to ensure their health and safety. I thought we were headed in this direction on Monday. But, my optimism suddenly turned to dismay.

Yesterday, in a shocking move, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the FDA and blocking its decision to expand access to emergency contraception. I held out a brief hope that President Obama would intervene and allow the FDA to do its job unhampered by politics, but those hopes were soon dashed as well. Today, President Obama came out in support of Secretary Sebelius’ action – and, in doing so, decided to play politics with the lives and health of young women.

To say I was shocked when listening to the President is an understatement. It’s not just that I disagree with his position, it’s that his reasoning is so hollow and unsubstantiated. This Harvard-educated legal scholar who has signed presidential directives about the importance of science-based policy suddenly sounded eerily like Rep. Michelle Bachman. He framed his reasoning “as the father of two daughters,” when my own two daughters most needed him to be acting like the President of the United States. He invoked the specter of 11 year-olds buying Plan B next to “bubble gum and batteries,” as if 11 year-olds wander into CVS to buy $50 medications every afternoon. In the end, he felt that these concerns should overweigh the best advice of every major medical organization, years of research, and the recommendations of the FDA itself. How is this different than Rep. Bachman condemning HPV vaccines because of unscientific misinformation from a woman in the grocery store?

I understand that President Obama is uncomfortable with the idea that young teens may need emergency contraception. That worries me too. Rather than deny them access to a fully safe medication that could help prevent unintended pregnancy, perhaps we should be doubling down on comprehensive sex education — and expanding access to contraception in the first place — so that fewer of our daughters ever need Plan B at all. But, for those who do, we still have a responsibility to make sure that any woman who needs emergency contraception has access to it when they need it.

As I write this my daughters are at school and I am figuring out how to get them a quick dinner before heading off to a school holiday party this evening. Of all the other things, on my to do list today as a working mom, I really did not believe I would be writing about my shock and disappointment in President Obama and, yes, my fear for my daughters’ future.

Was this part of a back-room deal, trading away the rights of all our daughters for some inside-the-beltway political ploy? Mr. President, why? I still want to know. I need something more than your current, cowardly excuses.

Mr. President, many of us were stunned by your remarks today. We need a better explanation for why you decided to sacrifice my daughters’ safety and well-being.

I hope you will join me in expressing your outrage and demanding that President Obama reverse this decision. CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION.

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  • radicalhousewife

    I have a six-year-old daughter myself, and I was flabbergasted and appalled that Obama would use his girls as an excuse for this decision.  Policymakers need to rely on science, not their own gut-level discomfort with the idea of little Sasha needing contraception.  

  • ch

    Adverse reactions to Plan B:  nausea, lower abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and breast tenderness


    Adverse reactions to Midol/Midol PMS:  Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); dark urine or pale stools; fast heartbeat; nervousness or irritability; unusual tiredness; yellowing of the skin or eyes.


    Adverse reactions to Advil:  Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; trouble breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); bloody or black, tarry stools; change in the amount of urine produced; chest pain; confusion; dark urine; depression; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; fever, chills, or persistent sore throat; mental or mood changes; numbness of an arm or leg; one-sided weakness; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin; ringing in the ears; seizures; severe headache or dizziness; severe or persistent stomach pain or nausea; severe vomiting; shortness of breath; stiff neck; sudden or unexplained weight gain; swelling of hands, legs, or feet; unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual joint or muscle pain; unusual tiredness or weakness; vision or speech changes; vomit that looks like coffee grounds; yellowing of the skin or eyes.


    Common adverse reactions to Tylenol:  Constipation; diarrhea; dizziness; drowsiness; excitability; headache; loss of appetite; nausea; nervousness or anxiety; trouble sleeping; upset stomach; vomiting; weakness.

    Severe adverse reactions to Tylenol:  Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); dark urine; difficulty urinating or inability to urinate; fast or irregular heartbeat; hallucinations; mood or mental changes; pale stools; seizures; severe drowsiness; severe or persistent dizziness, nervousness, lightheadedness, or headache; severe or persistent trouble sleeping; stomach pain; tremor; vision changes; yellowing of skin or eyes.


    President Obama, I respectfully submit that you are full of shit.


  • ljean8080


  • jennifer-starr

    Yes, though I’d love for you to explain to me what Plan B has to do with teaching morals. There’s nothing inherently immoral about its use–in fact I’d go so far as to say that the use of Plan B is responsible. 


    There’s the ideal of how you think teens should behave and the reality of how they actually do behave.  And I hate to tell you, even the best behaved and best raised teens are going to slip up.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer to deal with the reality. 

  • ljean8080

    have the same rights of ADULTS.Make this otc for 16 and up.younger need a prescription.

  • susmart3


  • jennifer-starr

    Please explain to me why someone under 16 should not have the same right to prevent a pregnancy. Really. I’d love to hear your reasoning. 

  • ljean8080

    md and get it.I am sick and tired  of kids thinking they have the same rights of adults.An 11 yeaR OLD is not old enough to know anything.

  • jennifer-starr

    An 11 yeaR OLD is not old enough to know anything.


    Okay. Let’s see what we have here. Not old enough to know anything but old enough to have a pregnancy forced upon them if a doctor won’t prescribe or a pharmacist won’t fill the prescription? Of course, you’ll say “Well they shouldn’t be having sex.” But sweetie, the people who need Plan B have already HAD sex. So you won’t actually preventing anything by trying to stop them from getting it. Which would mean that you’d be withholding it as what–punishment for having already done the deed? Baby as punishment?  Because that’s just illogical and actually–kind of sick, in my opinion. 


    Personally I would say that it would be easier for an 11 year old to swallow a simple pill–something I learned to do when I was 8–than be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. 


    Don’t you agree?  

  • colleen

    they are free to go to an md and get it.

    I think that even you know that 11 year old girls aren’t free to go to an MD for Plan B.

    I am sick and tired  of kids thinking they have the same rights of adults.

    I see, so the real issue for you isn’t protecting children, it’s punishing raped  11 year old girls with forced pregnancy for the crimes and/or abysmal parenting skills of adults.





  • ljean8080

    anymore.A girl in my area is going to do life inn prison because when she was 15 she buried her 8 year old neighbor alive.kids are out of  control.

  • jennifer-starr

    So this is less about actual logic and more about some kind of weird grudge you seem to be holding against children in general. They should be denied Plan B and forced to carry pregnancies because you just want to ‘punish the little monsters’.   Am I reading it right? 

  • ljean8080

    but don’t you think that girl IS A MONSTER.

  • jennifer-starr

    I think she did a horrible thing, yes. But please explain to me what, if anything, this has to do with the subject of Plan B?  You’re completely off-topic here. 

  • crowepps

    The topic apparently is “young people should suffer, especially girls.”

    You hear this a lot from people at senescence, ‘all these young people now are immoral and out of control!  Why is youth wasted on the young?’

  • dwizar

    I’m a year younger than President Obama and I have no children.


    What makes no sense to me about Sebelius’ and Obama’s decision here is that it effectively says that a young girl carrying a pregnancy to term is preferable in terms of risk to Plan B.


    The sane ones amongst us just have to make it clear to all the young girls we know that if they feel a need for this drug that we will get it for them.  Of course, that’s only if we actually care about them.  Someone has to.  It certainly won’t be our government.

  • ljean8080
    • crow,i am not saying all youth are bad.but monsters like the one who buried the kid alive need to be put away forever.
  • ljean8080

    if a 10 year old requested it,you would talk to an adult about it

  • crowepps

    Your comments is so totally off track from the discussion everyone else is having that you leave us struggling to understand your point.

    Yes, people do horrible things, something that’s been true since the beginning of time, but what, if anything, does that have to do with Plan B?

  • hsfrey

    I’m also upset by Obama’s Bush-like use of politics to override science, but this article is over the top!

    What Sebelius ruled is that the drug can’t be sold to kids under 17 without a prescription!

    It doesn’t say they can’t get it! They just need to go to a doctor and get a prescription.

    The drug is effective within 72 hours of intercourse.
    There’s plenty of time to get to a doctor or an ER to get a prescription.

    This author never once mentions that this drug is available to anyone with a prescription!

    If this article were written by a man, I’d say it was hysterical, but I guess you can no longer say that about an article written by a woman, without being called sexist.

  • elizabeth-d

    You do all realize that when we’re speaking of pregnant young girls, not infrequently a statutory rape has taken place, right? I am not seeing a lot of awareness of that here…. If the girl comes into contact with a doctor or other adult, there is a greater likelihood the crime will be reported. Child sexual abuse is a serious problem and does very grave harm. The abuser would have a huge motive to get the girl to to take Plan B to abort a child that may have been conceived, and the girl also may want that because she may not want her parents to know. Yet she needs them very much if she is in that situation. They can also assure her how much they love her and if she is pregnant as the natural consequence, they will love and support their grandchild and if need be find an adoptive family for him/her.


    A lot of kids today think, because of the media culture and the behavior of people in their environment, that having sex is the norm regardless of whether one is married or ready to become a parent, or not, and that it can be without consequences if you use the right products. Many are growing up today with effectively no sexual morality, no way to learn authentic love and responsibility, no incentive to learn self control.

  • shoesiren

    How can they be too young to prevent a pregnancy but at the same time, old enough to get pregnant? Yes, it would be wonderful if they talked to their parents, particularly in the case of abuse or assault. But unfortunately, that is often just not the case. Particularly when the abuser is a family member. They are scared. And no, they can’t go to a doctor. Doctors cost money and in a free clinic there is a likely chance that by the time they see a doctor, it’s too late for EC to be effective. Of course, in situations of abuse, EC is sort of a band aid on a bullet wound, but that doesn’t mean we should deny them that band aid. 


    I’ll say it again, if they are too young and irresponsible to prevent a pregnancy, they sure as hell are too young to be pregnant. I’d rather my (hypothetical) eleven year old decide to take EC, even without telling me, than get pregnant. No, I don’t like that idea. But I also think the idea that eleven year olds will be able to walk into a drug store and buy Plan B willy nilly to be absurd. 

  • shoesiren

    I posted this on Feministing, but I wanted to repost it.


    I keep thinking about Obama’s paternalistic approach to the Plan B med and how different men take having daughters and use it to form their opinions on different women’s issues. Take my dad, the father of four girls. He has told me that we reaffirmed his belief in women’s reproductive choices. Like Obama, my dad knows that should the worst happen, we would probably be okay. We are affluent enough that money would not be too much of an issue. We are healthy. We have supportive parents. Hell, even if Roe v. Wade was overturned, I’d bet my parents would find a way to get us a safe abortion if that’s what we needed/wanted. 

    But my father took that protective feeling towards us and saw that some girls, hell most girls, aren’t that lucky. So while he’d give anything to keep us safe, some girls don’t have that. And for that reason, he is supportive of women’s rights.*

    *I should mention that he supported them before we were born as well. Also, as a doctor, he tends to follow the science approach. And as the husband of a doctor who did her OB residency in a poor inner-city hospital, he also knows very well the conditions in which a girl should not be having a baby, but is. Both of my parents are big supporters of women’s rights. They both were in med school when Roe v. Wade was decided and saw the positive consequences of that. As my mother told me when I was maybe eleven, “if for no other reason, abortion needs to be legal because keeping it legal is the only way to keep it safe.” When I asked her what she meant, she explained to me that desperation can make anyone do very dangerous things and very few things make a woman as desperate as an unplanned pregnancy.