Responding to a federal court order to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter without age restrictions by May 5, the Federal Drug Administration instead countered yesterday with a proposal to make Plan B and other emergency contraceptives available in retail aisles and sold to women age 15 and up, with ID.
In some ways, this is a victory for women's reproductive freedom (remember not so long ago, when Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius argued that 17-year-olds need a prescription for Plan B?). It also brings up at least one troubling question—how does a teen legally buy it if, like most 15-year-olds, she doesn't have her driver's license yet?
First, the job of the FDA is to make rules based on uncorrupted science. Not politics. Not convenience or comfort. Science. Period. Drug companies may advocate on behalf of their profit margins. Politicians may advocate on behalf of political ideology or campaign donors or favorite lobbyists. But the job of the FDA is to make clean recommendations based on how foods and drugs actually affect people. In this case those people are women and teens, and the science is clear. Having the drug freely available results in better public health outcomes than does restricting it. Political compromise casts doubt on the whole regulatory enterprise, and the agency, and it should.
Second, the real effect of the compromise isn’t on 11-year-olds, who don’t actually have sex and then show up at drug stores with 50 dollars worth of allowance in their pockets asking for Plan B. The real effect is on females of all ages who are forced to produce ID to get emergency contraception. When a women or teen needs emergency contraception she typically is in a situation she would rather not publicize. A condom has broken. Or she screwed up her birth control. Or she had impulsive sex. Or she got raped.
Tarico then patiently explains how this compromise benefits religious conservatives and their sex-shaming agenda. Go read the whole thing.