By Hadley Heath |
This debate on emergency contraception is not just about whether a fifteen-year-old should be able to walk into her neighborhood pharmacy and purchase it over the counter.
It is really about whether any woman can make her own unrestricted and uncoerced decisions about matters of family planning and health. Whether or not science and medical experts will be respected and listened to on important government policy decisions. Whether or not when a federal judge finally corrects the "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable," historically unprecedented intervention of a Cabinet Secretary into the Food and Drug Administration's review process, we abide by his ruling or appeal it.
Women's health and family planning are too important to be the target of ideological partisanship. Women's personal decision-making must no longer be a tactic in generating grassroots political support for one side or the other. We debate these basic rights as if there are two justifiable sides to these issues when there aren't.
In 2005, when the Bush Administration overruled its own outside group of scientific experts and decided not to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception, that was wrong. In 2011, when President Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA's attempt to reverse this previous 2005 decision, suggesting "the data" did not support making emergency contraception available to all ages without a prescription, that was wrong as well.
Now in 2013, when a federal judge has finally called out Sebelius for substituting the administration's political judgment for the FDA's scientific findings and the Obama Department of Justice responds by appealing that ruling – that is wrong.
These should not be political decisions. These should be medical and scientific decisions. The science tells us that emergency contraception should be available to all women, over-the-counter and without an age restriction. The FDA has concluded this twice in the past decade under both a Republican and Democratic President. This is the position of the scientific and medical community, including the American Association of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If we listen to the science, it tells us that whether fifteen, seventeen or twenty-five, women can understand the directions and safely take these medications. Women of any age deserve the ability to prevent a pregnancy.
And we deserve an administration that is going to fight for us, not against us, every step of the way.
About Susannah Baruch Interim President and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project
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