On Friday morning, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum bemoaned the FDA’s recent decision to lower the age restriction on over-the-counter Plan B from 17 to 15 years old. MacCallum and her guest, Republican strategist Brad Blakeman, falsely asserted that easing access to emergency contraception would increase teens’ rates of sexual activity, and suggested that the government is condoning “criminal behavior” among minors.
In order to justify denying contraceptive resources to American teens, Blakeman attempted to construe consensual sexual relationships between minors as criminal activity. Even though state law typically defines statutory rape as a sexual relationship between two individuals with a significant age gap, Blakeman claimed that sexually active 15-year-olds are always engaging in statutory rape, and allowing them to purchase Plan B over the counter is simply condoning this illegal behavior:
BLAKEMAN: This makes no sense at all. You have to be 18 years old to buy a pack of cigarettes, and the president is also encouraging criminal behavior, because in most jurisdictions in America engaging in sexual intercourse at 14, 15 years old is statutory rape. The president is somehow saying in if you engage in that activity, criminal behavior, that is okay because the government is going to provide you the out for your bad decision making. [...]
MACCULLUM: We had Dr. Manny Alvarez here the other day, and he, you know, has delivered thousands of babies, he’s an obstetrician, a gynecologist. He was so upset about this. You know, he said, they are giving them out like candy. He said there are college students who think that this is the — that this is contraception, it’s what they use, the day after pill in order to, you know, as a matter of course in their lives. Does that not trouble you?
BLAKEMAN: This strips away the moral fabric of our country. It’s the government basically being complicit in a criminal act. And also complicit in coming into the houses of America and telling the parents, you’re — we are bringing to bring up your children. We’ll be able to provide better for your decisions than the decisions you may make at home. I think it’s an outrage, but it’s the modus operandi of this administration. [...] Should we decriminalize statutory way up and say if you’re 15, go out and have sex as a matter of law?
The idea that consensual sexual activity among minors is inherently “criminal” is common viewpoint among conservative groups. Earlier this year, the right-wing Family Research Council suggested that unmarried people should be denied birth control and punished for having sex. This attitude helped fuel the abstinence-only movement in the 1990s, which has prevented students across the country from learning accurate information about sexual health resources and has contributed to epidemic levels of STD infections and teen pregnancy rates.
But, contrary to Fox News’ dramatic assertions, studies have shown that providing teens with access to Plan B does not actually increase their sexual activity. In fact, easing young adults’ access to emergency contraception simply helps prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions, which is why it’s a public health policy that has support from prominent medical experts — including the American Academy of Pediatrics.