Ringside Seat: Obama's Plan B on Plan B

Although one can argue that the American culture war dates all the way back to the days before we were even our own country, these days we can trace most of our hot-button issues to the 1960s, when the hippies and the squares faced off. Eventually, most of the particular issues about which people argued were resolved, and in the liberals' favor. The occasional dissenter not withstanding, there's a broad agreement that the South was wrong about civil rights, the Vietnam War was a bad idea, and women deserve the same rights as men.

But the cultural resentments still burn, and they can still be expressed in our policies, not only by Republicans but by Democrats afraid of Republicans. Consider, for instance, the Obama administration's position on whether Plan B, the "morning after" contraceptive pill, should be sold over the counter to any woman or girl who needs it. Today, the administration announced that after suffering multiple defeats in the courts, it is finally dropping its effort to keep girls under the age of 15 from obtaining Plan B over the counter. One consideration, apparently, was that they didn't want the case to go to the Supreme Court, where it would get even more attention than it already has.

The administration's rather arbitrary position—that a 15-year-old should be able to get Plan B over the counter, but a 14-year-old shouldn't—is hard to explain with any logical argument, let alone the liberal values one would hope would drive these decisions. The medication is completely safe, it isn't going to be used willy-nilly as a substitute for other contraceptives (a dose can cost $50), and the FDA has put its support behind over-the-counter sales.

But in this case, conservatives want the law to express their moral opprobrium over young women having sex by making sure that should such a young woman become pregnant, she will be punished until she understands the extent of her wickedness.  They can dress up their position with laughably unpersuasive arguments about public health, but their bottom line seems to be the inherent sinfulness of women's sexuality.

The Obama administration may not actually believe that, but they were obviously afraid that lots of Americans do. At least in the end—even if it was because they just wanted the issue to go away—they did the right thing.

So They Say

“I hope that he’ll get moving on to follow up on the wonderful pledges he made in his inaugural speech earlier this year and then soon after in his State of the Union,” Gore said. “Great words. We need great actions now.”

 Al Gore, on Obama and climate change

Daily Meme: The Notorious TBD

  • If Hillary Clinton does run for the presidency, be forwarned, it will be all we hear about for the entire election. Simply starting a Twitter account was enough to captivate yesterday's news cycle
  • The Internet went crazy. There were many GIFs (hard G) involved. 
  • "'She’s news incarnate,' gushed Paul Begala, a former adviser to Bill Clinton."
  •  Cosmopolitan blogs, "Hillary Clinton has been on Twitter for all of five seconds and it’s already The Greatest Twitter-Join of Our Time."
  • She got over 65,000 followers within an hour.
  • Her Twitter bio earned special attention, given its inclusion of the words "pantsuit aficianado" and "hair icon" ...
  • ... but especially for the mysterious TBD at the end. Even E! is curious to what's next for Hillz.
  • Marie Claire's analysis? "The final line, TBD, or To Be Decided—and, in fact, her decision to join the social networking site at all—has been touted by many as yet another sign she'll join the presidential race in 2016."
  • In fact, every fashion, entertainment, and political website was unpacking that TBD. 
  • The Christian Science Monitor writes, "It’s that 'TBD'—to be determined—that has prompted the flurry of interest in her debut on the social networking site, a must for public figures, journalists, students, authors, and anyone who wants to be anyone in the modern technological age. A person probably can’t run for president, for example, without a Twitter handle."
  • Even the tech blogs got in on the fun, making fun of all the pundits with their speculating hearts aflutter. "She ends it with a cryptic 'TBD,' which is probably just going to infuriate political junkies even more than she’s already infuriated them. It’s okay, girl, keep doing you."
  • Now, we must wait, both for 2016, and the other people we desperately want to start tweeting. 

What We're Writing

  • Can private companies own your genes? Lizzy Ratner explores the question that the highest court in America will soon answer.
  • If liberals are upset by the NSA spying scandal, what’s going to happen when Republicans again run the White House? Paul Waldman writes that the precedents set by the Obama administration don’t bode well for civil liberties under a Republican president.  

What We're Reading

Poll of the Day

Louisianans are the most engaged employees in America, according to a recently released Gallup poll that asked how involved and enthusiastic people were about their work. That said, just 37 percent of Louisiana citizens said they were active at the office. That number, though, is still 12 percent more than Minnesotans, who are the least enthusiastic workers in the country.

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