No Ordinary Princess

...anything but ordinary...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

No Political Motivation at All, Oh No!

I read this article in my Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday about the FDA's decision to revisit the possibility of making the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, available over the counter. This decision has been stalled or delayed for more than three years. In the meantime, women who have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused or just had a contraceptive mishap have had to jump through increasingly narrower hoops to obtain the contraceptive as activist physicians have denied prescriptions and activist pharmacists have refused to fill them. One woman recently wrote in the Washington Post about the very personal impact the unavailability of OTC emergency contraceptive had on her life.

According to the articles I've read recently on the subject, the hold-up has been over an age-based availability of the medication over the counter. The manufacturer would like Plan B to be made available to girls and women 16 years of age and older, the FDA has balked, preferring an age limit of 18 or older.

So, what's the hold-up? I think most citizens of the United States, even if they might prefer younger women to have access to the drug, would agree that having the ability to obtain the contraceptive at age 18 or older is reasonable. When one is 18, one may vote, enlist in the military, smoke cigarettes (in most states) and sign contracts. Logically, one should be able to purchase OTC medications at that age as well. So we start with 18 and older then negotiate from there.

There are horror stories out there...women who've been raped and have been denied the prescription by doctors or pharmacists, women who've not been able to see a physician until after the 72 hour window had passed. I was distressed to learn that a physician in a hospital in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, 30 miles from where I used to live and work, had refused to prescribe emergency contraception for a girl who was raped, although her mother had requested it.

I worked in a Catholic hospital where a nun who was an emergency physician and medical director of the ER wrote prescriptions for EC. A nun. In a Catholic institution. If she could have that much of a conscience, why can't all doctors who care for women who might require emergency contraception, often through no fault of their own, though "fault" should never enter into this discussion, either.

I have concerns about Plan B becoming an OTC drug. I worry about women who do not investigate or understand the risks and side effects of using the drug. I worry about women who will not get any counseling about the drug's use or about other consequences of a sexual encounter that might result in pregnancy, namely sexually-transmitted diseases.

But I worry more about women having to endure the humiliation of being denied this viable option in the event of unprotected sex or rape. I worry more about women having to seek out abortions because this simple, easy alternative was not made available to them on demand.

But have no fear, America. We can rest assured that there was no political motivation behind the FDA's three-year foot-dragging on the issue. We have it straight from the mouth of Andrew von Eschenbach, Bush's nominee for the position of permanent head of the FDA.

I'm sure political ideology had nothing to do with it. Just as political ideology has nothing to do with banning abortions or derailing federal funding for research into embryonic stem cells and their applications. And Iraq is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East and all's right with the world.

Technorati tags: bitchy / health and science / sex / US politics


Blogger NursePam said...

Interestingly, I have met quite a few nuns in my travels who seem to have more of a political and ethical conscience, and the courage to live by their conscience, than one might believe given the overall climate of the catholic church.

Let's hope Plan B gets out there.

3/8/06 9:34 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I just read an article in the Philly Inquirer about a group of women, some of them nuns or former nuns, who participated in a ceremony to become priests. Loved it. Those are probably the kind of women you mention. Unfortunately, not all nuns are so conscience-driven or fearless. I saw many of them picketing at the Planned Parenthood in Reading when I lived there. Yes, the Catholic church has got to be the ultimate patriarchy, huh?

3/8/06 10:43 AM  
Blogger Refugee from Reason said...

Nice work. One of these days I'll write of my mother in the early 40s when in Med School, she provided certain assistance to women with a range of challenges.

4/8/06 1:06 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks, RfR!

Oh, please do write about your mother, and let me know when it's published. Your parents sound like extraordinary individuals and you sound rightfully proud.

4/8/06 3:10 AM  

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