Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the war on birth control

Back in July, I wrote a little post on the war against contraception. It was a reaction to the lawsuit brought on by the Center for Reproductive Rights against the Food and Drug Administration to force them to make Plan B (aka “emergency contraception) available over the counter for women of all ages. Even though Plan B has already been made available “behind the counter” without a prescription, it is not available to teens without a prescription. Teens have a much higher rate of unplanned pregnancy than adults.

I’m reposting because a war against all contraception is being waged and the time to fight back is next Tuesday at the polls. I understand that there are other pressing issues to think about when voting—illegal immigration, the war in Iraq, gas prices, gay marriage. But as a female voter, I am compelled to think about just how much power the government has over me and what I choose to do in the privacy of my bedroom.

the fight against birth control is a fight against women

Just a warning, I’m feeling a soapbox moment coming on. Yesterday, a co-worker passed along an editorial from the New England Journal of Medicine--Plan B, Reproductive Rights, and Physician Activism by Rebekah E. Gee, MD, MPH. The author is one of two people who brought on the lawsuit against Wal-Mart in Massachusetts for refusing to fill a prescription for Plan B (the morning-after pill which is 75% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of having sex). The article details her story and we all know how it ends. Wal-Mart is now stocking all of their pharmacies with Plan B (or so they say). Currently, there is a case up in New York against the Food and Drug Administration, who has unreasonably blocked Plan B’s over-the-counter status. The article also mentions a growing anti-contraception movement in the United States (which is definitely felt here in my office). My question is why? Why is this country so against contraception?

The easy answer is to blame the religious right. Their claim that access to contraception promotes sexual promiscuity is baseless (where’s the research?). During the FDA’s Plan B deliberations, there was a concern being passed around that teenagers’ access to Plan B would lead to sex cults. Really? Sex Cults? Come on. In reality, the research shows that access to Plan B does not change the sex habits of teens.

So, the religious right is against contraception and abortion. If they’re against abortion, how do you prevent unplanned pregnancies (which I’m assuming is the reason why women have abortions)? What is the realistic solution to preventing an unplanned pregnancy? Contraception. Yet (according to conservatives) women are not to have access to contraception or abortion. In fact, according to our government, condoms aren’t all that effective in preventing STD’s and pregnancy either. So it would be better to bring in an unwanted child into the world (or possibly put them up for adoption in our over-crowded foster care system)? Or perhaps all women should just wait until marriage to have sex. If you never marry, then you’re shit outta luck.

What about women? It doesn’t seem fair that we let our government dictate what we should and should not do with our own bodies. There is very clear bias against women here. For example, there is no controversy over pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for Viagra. The sole purpose of Viagra is to restore men’s sexual abilities, certainly not to procreate in their old age. However, some pharmacists won’t fill prescriptions for birth control because it’s morally wrong. Really now? I don't see any moral "correctness" in Viagra. Frankly, I don’t see anyone campaigning against vasectomies either.

98% of women use contraception (according to data from Planned Parenthood). Perhaps a woman’s first consideration before voting should be her sex life. Sadly, there are people out there who are fighting to make sure we don’t have one.

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