Time for Plan B on Plan B?

"Modest" restrictions on reproductive freedom don't ever work the way their centrist supporters intend. They always end up hurting women least capable of shouldering the burden. Two new studies underscore this point. First, Amanda Marcotte points out research in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that the Plan B restrictions supported by the Obama administration—against the advice of its medical professionals—will have effects more far-reaching than keeping the emergency contraceptive out of the hands of 11- and 12-year-olds. The JAMA study shows that this decision not only requires 15- and 16-year-old young women to get a prescription to obtain Plan B; it makes it harder for adult women to obtain Plan B as well.

In theory, putting Plan B behind the counter allows access, but also incentivizes consultation with a pharmacist about proper use. But in practice, not making Plan B available over the counter because of regulations put in place without understanding the realities of Plan B usage means that some women (especially in less affluent neighborhoods) will be denied access. The same problems exist with parental-involvement laws. In both cases, some gatekeepers lack the necessary information to allow access even if they have the best intentions, and where the reproductive rights of women are concerned, many don't always have the best intentions.

At Salon, Irin Carmon discusses new research on women who obtain second-trimester abortions. Opponents of reproductive freedom are engaged in increasing efforts to ban abortions prior to viability, but after 16 weeks. Such laws would disproportionately affect young women and racial minorities. And while women who obtain second trimester abortions actually have more money than the typical women obtaining an abortion, this is because such abortions have become "so prohibitively expensive after 16 weeks that many lower-income women simply have to give up." And, of course, the movement to ban second-term abortions is even worse in context. The arbitrary regulations invented by the anti-choice lobby—and favored by "centrists"—make it harder to obtain abortions in a timely manner, forcing women to navigate the regulatory obstacle course which limits access to later-term abortions.
Women need more access to reproductive services, and even "moderate" regulations punish poor women, rural women, and racial minorities. The Obama administration had the chance to make the situation better rather than worse—and it failed.