By Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Women’s Issue Committee Chair Council Member Julissa Ferraras and Health Committee Chair Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo
Friday’s momentous decision by a federal judge to overturn the age restrictions on sale of Plan B (the morning after pill) is long overdue and a landmark for reproductive rights. In 2009, the FDA concluded that the medication was safe for all ages and should be available over the counter to all — that common sense decision was over ruled by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. We opposed restrictions on access then, and applaud removing them now. Women of all ages deserve access to all forms of pregnancy prevention, and countless studies show that women of all ages use them.
Emergency contraception (sold as Plan B and often called the morning after pill) is something that can be used in a variety of circumstances: when another method of birth control fails, when unprotected sex occurs, after a sexual assault. In 2003, the Council passed a package of legislation requiring that medical facilities carry EC, that hospitals provide it to victims of rape or sexual assault, and that pharmacies must disclose the availability of EC. Since then we’ve been consistently calling for EC to be available, over the counter for women under 18. It’s unrealistic to think that women under 18 aren’t having sex and don’t need access to EC. Requiring them to get a prescription only deters them from using it when needed, and creates more unintended pregnancy.
We must let go of the fallacy that availability of EC, or contraception, or abortion will make sex ‘consequence free’ for our young people. Providing education and medical options prevents teen pregnancies, it doesn’t create them. That is not opinion — it is scientific fact. Those facts are what should be guiding our policies — not politics, religion or fear.
On Friday, Judge Korman called Secretary Sebelius’ decision “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” Sebelius’ actions, he said, were “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.” We couldn’t agree more. We applaud this decision and the tenacious work of the Center for Reproductive Rights in bringing it to justice.