By Teresa Welsh |
The Obama administration's decision to appeal a judge's order to make the so-called "morning after" pill available over the counter to women and girls of all ages is punitive, dangerous and appallingly irresponsible. Does Barack Obama really want to be the president whose misguided policies could end up forcing pregnancy and childbirth on young teenagers? Or does he want to be the president who upholds the rule of law and champions the constitutional right to birth control?
When, in December 2011, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration's decision, based on scientific research, that emergency contraception should be available over the counter without age restrictions, it was the first time in U.S. history that an FDA decision had been overruled. Ronald Reagan's administration never did it. Nor did Richard Nixon's or George W. Bush's. And as Judge Korman in his thoroughly researched and carefully reasoned April 5 ruling demonstrated, the Obama administration's action was pure politics, unsupported by science or evidence.
Look, I get it: The thought of a tween girl having unprotected sex and then purchasing and consuming a medication to prevent pregnancy makes many people uncomfortable. Of course we don't want girls – or boys, for that matter – to engage in inappropriately young sexual activity. But to deny them their health care rights as defined by the courts is as wrong as obstructing any other civil right.
Numerous studies have disproved the myth that giving girls access to birth control – including emergency contraception – leads to risky sexual behavior. And no caring parent thinks the response to young teens having sex is to punish them by withholding health care. It's also incredibly naïve to think that girls in need of emergency contraception will always have a trustworthy adult to go to for help. Being able to obtain emergency contraception off a drugstore shelf gives girls power over their own reproductive health that can otherwise be impossible.
Just one week ago, Obama told the Planned Parenthood convention, "We shouldn't have to remind people that when it comes to a woman's health, no politician should get to decide what's best for you." Lofty rhetoric – if only he would live up to his own words.
About Terry O'Neill President of the National Organization for Women
Deborah Nucatola Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Jessica Arons Director of the Women's Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress
Anna Higgins Director of Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity