The Suppression of Plan B
Revolution #027, December 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Emergency Contraception (EC, also known by its brand name of Plan B) is an important innovation in birth control. If a woman ends up having unprotected sex, she can take EC (basically a high dosage of regular birth control pills) within three days, and it prevents a pregnancy from developing. It's estimated that as many as 1.2 million pregnancies could be prevented every year if women had easy access to this drug.
And that's exactly what the FDA has repeatedly blocked from happening, for years.
EC has been around since 1998. But in order for a woman to get it, she has to jump through all kinds of hoops: she has to find a doctor, get an appointment, and go to a pharmacy that stocks it, all within three days, while the clock is ticking. This makes it basically impossible for many women. And unnecessarily--there is no medical reason why EC should only be available by prescription.
For years, the FDA has refused to allow Plan B to be made available to the millions of women that need it by allowing it to be available over-the-counter (OTC, meaning without a prescription). This is in spite of the fact that the FDA's own scientists have overwhelmingly certified it as safe for this kind of use. A November 2005 report by the General Accounting Office revealed that high-level officials in the FDA maneuvered to block this pill from ever getting approved for OTC use - something that is almost never done.
Why is a safe, extremely needed form of birth control being attacked in this way, for reasons that have nothing to do with legitimate safety or science concerns?
Because EC allows a woman to avoid having a baby she doesnt want to have--and it could potentially reach millions of women who previously have been burdened with an unwanted pregnancy. This is why the Christian Fascists and other right-wing forces have attacked EC with a vengeance. Because their worldview considers women to be nothing more than walking uteruses, anything a woman does to make her uterus inhospitable to a fertilized egg is unacceptable.
The "woman-as-baby machine" Biblical fundamentalists are going after Plan B because they say that preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to a uterus is a form of abortion. On the one hand, this just shows the unscientific madness of this "life begins at conception" logic. At the stage when it is ready to implant, the fertilized egg is called a blastocyst; it consists of about 100 cells, and it measures about 3 thousandths of an inch (or we could say .0039 inches) in diameter. This is NOT a baby!
But through the attacks on Plan B--which again is effective on blastocysts--you can also see how, for the "women as baby machines" forces, not only is abortion a sin, so is birth control. (Plan B also can work by altering the cervical mucus so that sperm can't reach the egg in the first place, and can block a woman from releasing an egg. And, in this, we can see that these forces are not going to stop at banning abortion: to them, anything including birth control - that allows a woman to control when and whether to have a baby is a sin.
For the FDA to refuse millions of women access to EC means that the state is now in the position of legislating morality. In addition to thisIn a section of Catherine Crier's book Contempt: How the Right is Wronging American Justice, Crier notes that it is only since 1961, with the Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut, that it was even legal to give unmarried women birth control.! Reactionary Christian author Mary Pride, author of "Beyond Feminism" lets it all hang out on where these people are coming from:
"There is an alternative to scheming and plotting how many babies to have and when to have them. It can be summed up in three little words: trust and obey. If God is willing to plan my family for methen why should I muddle up his plan with my ideas?"
Already, many states have laws on the books that allow a pharmacist to refuse a woman access to birth control if their "conscience" believes women do not have a right to it--which means that the state is endorsing making birth control scarcer and scarcer for women. Right-wing legal groups like the Center for American Law and Justice (a Christian Fascist version of the ACLU) are pushing for more of such "conscience" laws, and defend the pharmacists who refuse to prescribe EC (and in some cases have stolen a woman's prescription from her.)
This is the kind of morality that the FDA enforced with its attacks on EC. And these kinds of attacks will only continue as long as these Christian Fascist forces go undefeated and unchallenged.