Today’s post comes from Claire Payton, a research assistant at New York University’s Margaret Sanger Papers Project.
Of the millions of women who take the pill each day, most think about it only during the second or two it takes to swallow it; for the most disciplined among us, taking it requires no thought at all. We pop it out of simple packages in pastel colors, but where did the pill really come from? The story of the pill is much more complex than the packaging suggests.
A few weeks ago marked the 52nd anniversary of FDA approval of the first birth control pill in 1960. Within five years, more than six and a half million women were using it to regulate their families! This new medication completely revolutionized relationships, society, and the workplace by allowing women to postpone having children. The pill seems entirely commonplace today, a benign if essential prop in our social landscape, yet its development was entirely dependent on the intertwining lives of a few key personalities, one of whom was Margaret Sanger.
Today I stumbled upon a Feminists for Choice article regarding the FDA‘s dilly-dallying around with Plan B, otherwise known as emergency contraception (EC), and had to bring it to your attention.
EC has been available — behind pharmacy counters with proof of ID — to those 18+ since 2006, and to those 17+ since 2009. Nonetheless, it remains inaccessible for many. For example, women must approach the pharmacist and request EC; should the pharmacist’s religious beliefs conflict with providing Plan B, s/he may refuse to hand it over, under the protection of conscience clauses.
Price is another hurdle. In 2007, I led NOW-NYC’s Reproductive Rights Action Committee in a city-wide survey of pharmacies, which found prices as high as $50 for one dose of EC. While $50 may be a drop in the bucket for some, it means choosing between a week’s worth of meals and avoiding pregnancy for others.
More recently, Teva, the maker of Plan B One-Step, has pushed to make EC available over the counter for women of all ages. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it highlights just how much the FDA has dicked around with Plan B.
In a nutshell:
- It took the FDA from 2001 to 2006 to finally allow the sale of Plan B. We have Bush and his anti-choice cronies to thank for that. Which brings me to point 2:
- The FDA allowed politics to trump science for too long. According to the article, “it turns out that the Bush White House had been consulted during the decision-making process – one high-level FDA official even told colleagues that he was afraid he’d lose his job if he approved Plan B for over-the-counter status”
- The FDA has failed to take action on a court mandate ordering Plan B to have true over-the-counter status.
I encourage you to read the full article, which is written by a legal fellow with the Center for Reproductive Rights. The bottom line is that ONCE AGAIN women’s reproductive health is being played with and this needs to end. Politics should never trump science.