There’s no scientifically-motivated reason to restrict Plan B, an extremely safe medication that the FDA has approved for girls of all ages. But conservatives have consistently claimed that allowing teens to buy emergency contraception over the counter will harm America’s youth. And in the aftermath of the Obama Administration’s announcement, the right-wing media has also attempted to link contraceptive access with sexual abuse against women, claiming that allowing young teens to purchase Plan B without needing to ask their parents will embolden rapists.
“It’s a good deal for pedophiles, a good deal for people who commit statutory rape against young girls,” conservative radio host Laura Ingraham told Fox News on Tuesday. “if mothers and fathers across this country hear this and they think, ‘Well, I guess my daughter or her boyfriend or her rapist can go out to a pharmacy and get a bunch of, you know, hormone pills to give a little girl.’ We don’t really know the effect of a spiking or dropping a little girl’s — in many cases a young woman’s or a little girl’s hormonal levels. It’s outrageous!”
Similarly, the right-wing National Review Online (NRO) published a post on Tuesday entitled “Real-World Morning-After Pill Consequences,” highlighting the story of a mother who worked to protect her 11-year-old daughter from a sexual predator. Even though that story didn’t involve contraception at all, the NRO concludes it has important implications “in the context” of offering Plan B over the counter. “It will be yet another way in which parents could be kept in the dark about what is happening to their own children, perhaps even when they are victims of sexual predation. Truly sickening,” the NRO’s Welsey J. Smith writes.
This line of reasoning isn’t new. The right-wing Family Research Council has been repeatedly pushing sexual abuse as one of its reasons for opposing giving more young women access to emergency contraception. Last month, in a statement supporting the Obama Administration’s decision to prolong the legal fight to restrict access to Plan B, the group claimed, “Additionally alarming is that Plan B ‘access’ advocates ignore the fact that doctors and parents are often the first line of defense for girls who are being sexually abused. Removing doctors and parents from the equation will make it much easier for predators to conceal sexual abuse and to force the drug’s use on minors.”
In fact, there’s no evidence to suggest that expanding access to contraception increases rates of sexual assaults against women and girls. It doesn’t increase the rates of consensual sexual activity among teens, either. In reality, allowing teens to easily purchase Plan B is an important method of preventing unintended pregnancy that the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed.
Conservatives have repeatedly attempted to construe their policy positions as important methods of keeping women safe and preventing sexual assault, even when sexual violence prevention advocates don’t agree those tactics are actually helpful. For example, gun advocates have pushed to allow college students to carry concealed weapons on campus as a method of allowing women to protect themselves against potential rapists. But domestic violence groups point out that most sexual assaults among undergrads occur between people who already know each other, and teaching students about consent is a better way to prevent those assaults than introducing a firearm to the situation.