Posted by Sappho on December 9th, 2011 filed in Health and Medicine, Sexuality
Amanda Marcotte, upset like most feminist bloggers that the FDA approval for making Plan B over the counter for everyone has been overruled, writes
The other reason that it’s just a terrible idea to have these restrictions on Plan B is that doing so means that all women, not just minors, have to go through a pharmacist to get the drug. In order to comply with restrictions, pharmacies have to put Plan B behind the counter with the cough medicine and cigarettes, instead of out in the aisle next to the condoms and aspirin where it would go in a saner country. While some of us can endure having to ask for Plan B out loud and stoutly exclaim, “Hey, the condom broke!” if anyone gives us the stink eye, being afraid to do so isn’t a crime and shouldn’t be punished with unintended pregnancy. In a better world, discussing your personal business with a pharmacist would be easy and shame-free all the time, but in our world, not every woman is so lucky. Putting Plan B on the shelf helps women avoid uncomfortable conversations that may discourage them from buying it.
I’m actually pretty heartless when it comes to women who are too embarrassed to get contraception from a pharmacist. Mature enough to have sex ought to be mature enough to let your pharmacist know that, yes, you’re having sex, and no, you don’t want kids. Now, it’s true, I don’t want women who are too embarrassed to admit to a pharmacist that they want emergency contraception to wind up pregnant, because being too immature to admit you’re having sex isn’t a super good qualification for becoming a parent. And, given that emergency contraception (yes, this does work as contraception, by preventing the sperm from meeting the egg, and no, it’s not an early abortion) has been approved by an FDA panel as sufficiently safe to be an over the counter medication, I’m disappointed that political considerations will, after all, prevail over scientific ones. But the problem with “preventing teens from getting contraception over the counter means that adults will also have to go through a pharmacist to get their OTC drug” isn’t, to my mind, potential adult embarrassment. It’s something else.
There has been, for some years now, a move to allow pharmacists rights of “conscience” to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. This means that, anywhere such rights are recognized, women can capriciously be denied access to contraceptives. (It also means that, were California to recognize and defend such a right, I, who am nearly menopausal and unlikely to be able to become pregnant, could capriciously be denied the medicine I need to get my current menorraghia-induced anemia under control, should I go the birth control pill route for controlling said menorraghia, and should I encounter a pharmacist with a conscientious objection to the use of birth control pills, and there have indeed been court cases involving such pharmacists.)
This means that there’s a cost to all women in keeping contraception behind a counter, where you have to go through a pharmacist to get it, even if it’s not a prescription drug. Obviously, that’s a cost worth bearing, if the scientific evidence supports keeping a medication prescription only. I don’t think it’s a cost worth bearing to try to keep teenagers from having sex.