Here's a prediction: The Plan B backlash is going to reverberate for quite a while. The ladies are furious that, once again, the administration has backed the bus right over their ovaries, overruling scientific research in the name of patronizing paternalism. If boys and men can pick up condoms as easily as a bag of Skittles, why can't girls and women also bypass a potentially conscience-ridden pharmacist and buy an easy-to-use pill to prevent pregnancy after—after—having sex? Come on, people, it's already happened; if she's too young to have sex, surely she's also too young to have a baby and raise a child. As for wanting parental oversight, well, if the 11-year-old is potentially pregnant by her father or stepfather or uncle, wouldn't it be terrific for her to be able to skip that little nicety?
There have been some brilliantly scathing pieces written about the decision. Katha Pollitt announces that the Department of Health and Human Services has decided to treat all women like children by first laying out the (sarcasm alert) highly complex instructions:
"Plan B One-Step dosage consists of a single tablet taken once. A second tablet or dose is not required. The Plan B One-Step tablet should be taken as soon as possible and not more than 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure."
If a sixth grader can’t understand those elementary, crystal-clear instructions, we should just move back to the caves, because civilization is finished. As has been pointed out, we assume middle-schoolers can handle Tylenol, which is not only easy to overdose on but has been used in suicides. If Sebelius is really worried about what kids can purchase at Duane Reade, she should start with products that actually can be used dangerously.
... And excuse me, Mr. President, thanks to your HHS, acquiring Plan B is prescription-only not just for 11 year olds but for the 30 percent of teenage girls between 15 and 17 who are sexually active, and is a cumbersome process for all women, who have to ask a pharmacist for it and, as many news stories have reported, be subjected to fundamentalist harangues and objections. Apparently it’s okay with you if Michelle is treated like a sixth-grader. I’m trying to think if there are any laws or regulations affecting only men in which unfounded fears about middle-school boys deny all men normal adult privileges. Needless to say no one suggests that underage boys get a prescription if they want to use condoms, or that grown men have to ask the pharmacist for them and maybe get a lecture about the evils of birth control and promiscuity.
At In These Times, Lindsay Beyerstein clearly lays out part of the the issue:
The president is ritually pissing off his base for no good reason. It must be an election year...
The FDA lets kids buy Tylenol over the counter, despite the fact that surprisingly small overdoses can kill. The instructions on cold medicine and allergy pills are more complicated than the instructions on Plan B. The FDA trusts young women to treat their own yeast infections with OTC fungicide, a process that requires much greater reading comprehension, dexterity, and tenacity than taking a single pill.
Lurking in the background is the media-enabled myth that Plan B is an abortifacient. Most news reports say that it works "primarily" by preventing ovulation. That's incorrect. Plan B works exclusively by preventing ovulation.
I don't know exactly how, but Democratic women are going to break up with this administration. Pickets? Fence-chaining? "Occupy Our Ovaries" protests? Something's gonna boil over. Remember that you read it here first.