On Friday, a federal judge struck down the Obama Administration’s decision to restrict access to emergency contraception for Americans under 17 years old, ruling that Plan B should be available over the counter for women of all ages. Judge Edward R. Korman criticized the Administration’s “politically-motivated effort” to placate religious conservatives and prevent young women from accessing an extremely safe contraceptive method. Nevertheless, the White House is standing by its policy to require young women to obtain a prescription for Plan B, citing false claims that “it could be dangerous if misused.”
At the daily White House press briefing on Friday, Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that President Obama has not changed his position on restricting access to Plan B for women younger than 17. “He believes it was the right, common sense approach to this issue,” Carney told reporters, crediting Obama’s view on the issue partially to the fact that he is a parent and can therefore understand parents’ concerns about safety.
According to Carney, young girls may not be able to take the medication correctly if they do not first consult with a medical professional. “We do not have enough evidence to show that all those who could use this medicine, Plan B, can understand the label and use the product appropriately,” Carney said. “It could be dangerous if misused.” But that’s simply a distortion of the actual science behind emergency contraception. In fact, the morning after pill is safer than aspirin, which is obviously available over the counter to people of all ages.
And it’s not clear why the Obama Administration doesn’t trust the numerous doctors’ groups and medical professionals who have all confirmed that Plan B is safe for teens to use. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out in favor of expanding young people’s access to emergency contraception, explaining that requiring teens to obtain a prescription is an unnecessary hurdle that likely prevents many of them from using the contraceptive method effectively. Just as Judge Korman pointed out, the morning after pill is “among the safest drugs sold over the counter” and the standards for the FDA’s guidelines need to be “the same for aspirin and for contraceptives.” Even though Americans tend to be squeamish when it comes to teen sexuality, and may prefer to pretend that teenagers aren’t having the types of sexual encounters that would necessitate emergency contraception, that isn’t an acceptable basis for a federal policy. Pretending that Plan B is somehow “dangerous,” even when all the scientific evidence says otherwise, isn’t an acceptable basis either.