The Wrong Call on Plan B

Does the decision to make it harder for teenage girls to get hold of emergency contraception sound non-political to you? Well, the secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sibelius, certainly thinks it is, claiming that science simply doesn’t yet have the evidence to prove that Plan B could be safely available to under-seventeens: “… There are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age,” she explained.

But to look at it another way, the “cognitive and behavioral” maturity of a 15-year-old mother (or mother-to-be) might be lower than that of a childless 18-year-old, but does that mean it’s more of a risk for her to take Plan B than to skip it? Even if we find that Plan B is chemically problematic for young folks, surely unwanted pregnancy and abortion could do worse, especially in a young body. After all, pregnancy can be a physical battering in its own right. Depending on these teenagers’ choices, which might be made under pressure, there could be pre- or post-natal depression, low self-esteem, physical pain, sleeplessness, immeasurable anxiety and stress — all this caused by the body’s natural chemicals. Plus if the teenager is pushed into having the child, the psychological risks are high.

That said, before all of this, emergency contraception wasn’t easy to get hold of. As it happens, I bought some Plan B a couple of months ago when Susie Bright said on In Bed with Susie Bright that it was a good idea to have some in a first aid kit. But my experience at Chinatown CVS was no walk in the park. There were customers all around me as I said what I wanted, and the pharmacist who served me seemed prickly as she checked my ID. If I were 15 and scared, this would have been a nightmare — but one that is more anonymous (and often far easier) than a doctor’s appointment.

So while Obama doesn’t want to see Plan B near the bubble gum aisle, I disagree. What about the teenager who was date-raped last night? She might be standing in that very aisle, right now, scanning the shelves for emergency contraception.

And if that isn’t an emergency, I don’t know that is.