Plan B: Empowering Girls and Upsetting Pundits
In a victory for the women’s right movement, Plan B will now be available over-the-counter for girls under 17 without parental permission. AHA Communications Intern Sam Mauceri examines the Religious Right’s unreasonable reaction to the good news.
Good news for humanists and the women’s rights movement: Plan B will soon be available to women and girls of all ages. The “morning-after pill,” which was previously unavailable to those under 17 without a prescription from a doctor and a government-issued ID, is expected to reduce the number of abortions in teenage girls and aid young victims of rape and incest with its wider reach. Not surprisingly, since the news of the upcoming availability of the pill hit the ears of conservatives, pundits and bloggers have responded with comments that range from vitriolic to misogynistic to just plain bizarre.
One of the strangest arguments in the current discussion was summarized by Laura Ingraham in an appearance on Fox & Friends. “It’s a good deal for pedophiles, a good deal for people who commit statutory rape against young girls.” Adding to that charming sound bite is Ingraham’s suggestion that parents will fall into a false sense of security, thinking that “my daughter or her boyfriend or her rapist can go out to a pharmacy and get a bunch of, you know, hormone pills to give to a little girl...”. Because what parent wouldn’t feel secure in the idea of a rapist procuring Plan B for a victim of sexual assault?
Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council constructs a similar hypothetical in which a predator supposedly drops $40-60 on Plan B preemptively, claiming that “removing doctors and parents from the equation will make it much easier for predators to conceal sexual abuse and to force the drug's use on minors.” While the scenario offered by Ingraham and Higgins is certainly not impossible, it is distracting from the intended purposes of the pill and, quite frankly, entirely irrelevant. After all, previous to the recent expansion of access of Plan B, adult men were already able to purchase it without a prescription or an ID. Allowing young teenagers additional protection from unwanted pregnancy will not make this “good deal for pedophiles” scenario any more prevalent than it already is.
Another argument making the rounds is that of consequences. In his article “Should There Be a Morning After?” blogger Robert Katula insists that the pill “eliminates the life lesson that comes from living with the consequences of one’s action.” Similarly, in her aptly named “I Finally Agree With Obama,” Angye Morrison writes that she doesn’t “think a teenager should be able to get her hands on the morning-after pill, which takes away the consequences of behavior that should have consequences.” Morrison utilizes typical slut-shaming rhetoric, confuses Plan B with an abortive pill, and trivializes the concerns and feelings of teenage girls in a failed attempt at identifying with them: “Can you say drama queen?” Meanwhile, Katula’s article simply asks the wrong question. After sexual activity, there is without a doubt a “morning after,” and to suggest that a woman or girl should not make decisions regarding her reproductive health during that time is to deny reality and to strip women of their agency in favor of teaching them a lesson. Never mind that that lesson would last the next 18 years of their lives, at the very least.
While the pundits and bloggers frame their arguments in terms of protecting young girls, don’t they actually accomplish the opposite? Ingraham’s claim that all-ages access to Plan B will “empower men who want to abuse women” misrepresents the intended and most prevalent use of the pill, while others complacently accept teenage pregnancies as consequences instead of aiming to help the young women in their lives. Their bizarre and unfounded arguments never cease to amaze. They never cease to hurt young women either.
Sam Mauceri is the Summer 2013 Communications Intern for the American Humanist Association.