More Women Can Now Get Plan B

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Drugs, Health Care

Old enough to see an R rated movie? Then you’re now old enough to get the morning after pill over-the-counter. Today the FDA announced the Plan B contraceptive will be made available to anyone 17 or older without a prescription. This is in response to a recent federal court ruling which criticized the executive branch’s handling of the controversial pharmaceutical.

The change isn’t huge. The previous age for over-the-counter purchase was 18. But do not doubt that the Obama administration will not have the problems with this rule that the Bush administration had. Many abortion opponents consider the morning-after-pill to be no different than an abortion and Bush was sympathetic to those worries. Obama, on the other hand, is decidedly liberal on the abortion issue.

Of course, much of the debate comes down to when you think life begins. Is it fertilization? Implantation? The moment of “quickening” notoriously laid out in Roe v. Wade? For some people, the matter is clear-cut. After fertilization or even after potential fertilization, any interference is immoral. For others, the woman’s rights supersede the right of the unborn up to and, in some instances, beyond the point of viability outside the womb. But I think, for most people, the issue is not so clear cut.

My views on abortion are complex and too complicated to effectively describe in a blog post. But I will say that I support Plan B contraceptive. Mistakes happen, either out of foolish moments of passion or failure of other contraceptive devices. Plan B allows for otherwise responsible people to remain responsible and not have a child they don’t want or can’t care for. It’s not perfect. But doing nothing and waiting to see if pregnancy results creates even greater problems and deeper moral dilemmas. It’s easy to draw bright lines, but it’s not always what’s best for a responsible society.

Now, if you are adamant that life begins at the moment of fertilization and that doing anything to inhibit implantation is morally reprehensible, then there’s nothing I can say. But if you believe that preventing unwanted pregnancies necessitates certain compromises, then over-the-counter Plan B is a reasonable policy. At least that’s my conclusion.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 and is filed under Drugs, Health Care. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

29 Responses to “More Women Can Now Get Plan B”

  1. Mike Casey Says:

    Preventing unwanted pregnancies is important. We have to prevent them BEFORE they occur, not during/after.

    Life begins at conception = scientific fact.

  2. JMG Says:

    Thank you Mike, for conflating a personal moral principle with facts.

  3. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Ending someone’s life because two people were irresponsible? Nice compromise, Alan. There are thousands of loving families on very long wait lists to adopt children; let’s all remember that an unwanted pregnancy does not equate into unwanted parenthood.

  4. J. Harden Says:

    This of course is the same infanticide-lov’in prez that can’t muster the moral courage to oppose the abortion-industry when it comes to LiveBirth killings and as one of his FIRST acts of hope and change funds overseas abortions with US tax payer dollars. This guys got a simple solution to every problem doesn’t he? Disgusting.

  5. Kevin Says:

    Keep adoption out of it.

  6. Ben Says:

    Remember that this isn’t just for “whoops, the condom broke.” It’s also for cases of rape.

  7. Undertoad Says:

    Plan B is not an abortion pill. Learn more about it.

    It’s a high dose of hormones which will A) prevent egg release, if it hasn’t already happened; B) prevent the sperm from fertilizing, if it hasn’t already happened; C) prevent the fertilized egg from implanting; but

    D) if the egg is fertilized and implanted, Plan B is too late.

    If you consider C) to be abortion, then roughly 2/3rds of all pregnancies end in abortion, when the egg fails to implant for other reasons. This would also classify other contraception methods “abortion”, including the IUD, and actually, the usual birth control pill in some cases.

    Some BC pills can be taken as a “plan b” — if you take the right number of progesterone-oriented BC pills all at once, you’ll get the same results.

    The More You Know!

  8. G-Rant Says:

    Plan B is not the abortion pill. It is a contraceptive, just like the normal birth-control pill.

  9. rob Says:

    You keep yer stinkin logics out of this toad!!!

  10. ExiledIndependent Says:

    @ Kevin, why? Isn’t the unwanted pregnancy issue really more about the lifetime impact of being forced into parenthood? A woman can carry a child for nine months, deliver, and have the child adopted. It seems like every time this reality is brought up, abortion proponents get all twitchy….

    @ Toad, abortion is an intentional act. So the fact that a fertilized egg naturally fails to implant isn’t an abortion. That’s like saying a miscarriage is an abortion. You’re not saying that, right?

    @ Ben, any idea how many unwanted pregnancies result from rape? With that logic, if torture were used to stop a bomb going off, that would be ok, right? Worst-case scenario arguments are tricky things, aren’t they?

  11. Kevin Says:

    Exiled-
    I’m an adult adoptee. Anti-Abortion people (the ones who usually dishonestly mislabel themselves as Pro-Life) have been using adoption as a weapon with no regard for the parties involved. They have been the funders of closed adoption and closed records with no regards to the facts or the people affected.

    Without major changes in adoption laws I’d like to see it ended. In reality, the problems would be addressed. Without the threat of it going away it will continue based on lies and deception.

    In your response to Toad, you take a convenient out. If God is omnipotent and omniscient then it is the greatest practitioner of abortion.

    As to the rape argument, that is logically consistent so I presume that the reason it isn’t upfront in the so called ProLife argument is that deception and dishonesty is ok.

  12. kranky kritter Says:

    Seems to me that the standard for availability for such a pill should correspond to each state’s established age of consent/line of adulthood. If, in the eyes of the laws of any given state, you are viewed to be an adult for purposes of having intercourse, then this pill should be available so long as abortion itself is legal.

    I have never heard or read any argument that life begins at conception that is any more compelling than arguments that, say life begins before conception. Is a sperm not animate and purposeful? The bible calls it a sin to spill your seed after all.

    Such arguments are also no more compelling to me than those which suggest that the line ought to be drawn at other points in time for other plausible reasons.

    But then I think life is cheap and plentiful. And I remain unconvinced of the rectitude of the notion that each human life ought to be regarded as equal in value. It’s at best a questionable contention, and many might say its demonstrably unture.

    I am all for trying to reduce the numbers of unintended and unwanted pregnancies prior to conception. But I would never pretend that we’ll get that number very close to zero, not without some magical adjustment to human nature. And I am unwilling to support any adjustment to the law which mandates that all pregnancies MUST be carried to fruition. Even with abortion at the levels we now see, unwanted pregnancies still lead to many, many, many unwanted children who are raised in the hands of incapable and resentful parents.

    And we all pay a high price for that. I am not eager to see that price raised.

  13. TerenceC Says:

    It’s safe, it’s private, it’s available, and it’s legal. I won’t for an instant profess to tell a woman (of any age) what she is allowed to do with her body – and you shouldn’t either. This isn’t an “abortion” pill – it’s a pre-abortion pill if anything. Call it insurance just in case the condom had a hole in it.

  14. michael reynolds Says:

    @ Toad, abortion is an intentional act. So the fact that a fertilized egg naturally fails to implant isn’t an abortion. That’s like saying a miscarriage is an abortion. You’re not saying that, right?

    Then the comparison is between manslaughter and murder. Either way there’s a death, right? Which is why you would no doubt condemn a woman who tries repeatedly to get pregnant despite a history of miscarriage. Right?

    Because, logically, if the fetus is sacred — even when it’s just a dozen cells — a woman who has a high likelihood of miscarrying is in effect committing manslaughter. Not as bad as murder, but an action resulting in a death, just the same.

    So you condemn fertility clinics? Do you condemn pregnancies in older mothers? Do you condemn pregnancies in women with a history of miscarriage? Isn’t a woman who’s had three miscarriages engaging in reckless behavior by your lights if she tries for a fourth time? And if that fetus miscarries hasn’t the mother committed negligent homicide?

    I’m going to guess your answer is: no.

    And I’ll suggest that the reason is revealed by your own words: “An intentional act.” Which implies this isn’t really about the fetus, it’s about the central importance of denying control to the woman.

  15. kranky kritter Says:

    MIke Reynolds, I know you to be a pretty smart guy. And I don’t think your comment is at all fair or intellectually charitable.It’s not even that great an argument. I have seen you do WAY better on all 3 counts.

    I definitely don’t want out laws changed to force all women to bear unwanted pregnancies to term.

    But multiple discussions that I have had with pro-life advocates has left me convinced that the vast majority of them are genuine in their belief that abortion is wrong because it amounts to the intentional extermination of an existing human life.

    In other words, to pro-life folks, the thing of central importance is to prevent what they see as murder, not to deny control to women. Your argument is IMO so crappy that you deserve for some pro-life advocate to declare that your argument is not about choice, but about the central importance of allowing murders to continue unabated.

    Have you not talked about abortion enough to be aware that the root of the ongoing conflict is the fact that each side disagrees about WHAT is of central importance, choice or life? Surely you’ve noticed this by now?

    Again, my experience with your writing leaves me certain that you can do much better.

  16. Undertoad Says:

    EI/MR, the egg is fertilized and fails to implant 60-80% of the time. That means there are twice as many flushed fertilized eggs as there are live births. It will be funny to go to the afterlife and find our souls are all minorities to the souls of 4- and 8-celled zygotes.

    So I for one would not count an unimplanted fertilized egg as a pregnancy, nor would I consider the use of medicine to prevent implanting to be abortion. To muddy the water further, Plan B is more likely to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation. Thus, its greater acceptance will REDUCE THE NUMBER OF ABORTIONS THAT HAPPEN.

  17. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:

    Sorry, but I think you’re wrong, at least as to many pro-lifers.

    Beliefs are tested by actions. Do pro-lifers act as though their sole concern was saving lives? No. If they did they’d be protesting at fertility clinics which cause tens of thousands of what they would call abortions.

    Have they protested fertility treatments? No. Have they ever attempted to outlaw fertility treatments? No.

    So we have a disconnect between what they claim to believe and how they act on those beliefs. I am therefore justified in being somewhat skeptical.

    People are generally not terribly self-aware. They claim to believe things which they find flattering to their self-esteem, or which place them in a position of authority or power, or in compliance with a group to which they belong.

    I am holding them to a different standard than you apply. I don’t take professions of belief at face value, because professions of belief are cheap and easy and psychically profitable. Actions are more revealing.

    I believe I should take care of my health. But I’m sitting on my ass smoking a cigar. So how much do I really “believe?” Might you reasonably look at me and say, “Michael, you’re full of it. If you really believed, you’d put out the stogie.”

    Do I get credit for my professed belief? Or do I have to own up to my actions?

  18. Kevin Says:

    Kranky
    I think while there was an overstatement calling oneself ProLife is a also huge overstatement. And while it is an overstatement, there are a sizable contingent of the movement who have a subserviant woman worldview.

    I agree with everything else but don’t see any solution on the horizon.

  19. J. Harden Says:

    Michael obviously believes that he’s stumbled upon a real whopper of argument with the fertility clinic analogy. If I understand it, because fertility clinics (and in fact nature) cause death at the same stage, pro-lifer’s aren’t really concerned with “life” otherwise they’s be protesting fertility clinics (and more importantly they’d be protesting Mother Nature with be picket signs — GOD THE BABY KILLER!). And since they aren’t Really concerned with Life, it is about supressing women’s “choice.”

    Cute argument. Cute like a little retarded bunny, but cute.

    Let me just ask you this question Michael and show me how your progressively brilliant mind deals with it: How would you feel about Plan B pills being predominantly distributed, free of charge, to low-income minority women? Does that make your gut tighten a little, just a little? If so, why?

    It is in the answer to “why” your gut tightens (if it does, you might be so “progressive” that it doesn’t) at the thought of Plan B being distributed to low-income minority women that you might start to discover what the “culture of life” is about or, perhaps more important, what its opposite, the Cuture of Death, is about.

  20. michael reynolds Says:

    J. Harden:

    You addressed no part of my argument. Other than to diss Differently Abled bunnies. All due respect, I’m expecting KK to do a much better job.

    The low income thing made me think. It made me think, “WTF is he talking about?”

  21. kranky kritter Says:

    For my part, I would not have any problem whatsoever with giving out RU-482 pills free of charge to low-income pregnant women. It sounds like a good idea to me. While you guys argued about it, I could sit back and quietly appreciate a world with slightly fewer unwanted children being poorly raised by bad or overwhelmed parents with insufficient resources.

    But then I don’t live in any of the various worlds imagined into being by the various cultures of ideological perfection.

  22. J. Harden Says:

    michael – of course I didn’t. Certainly you do not expect a mere philosophical amateure and armchair ethicist to truly be able probe of the depths of your bioethical logic. I retreat in embarrassment.

    The low income thing made me think. It made me think, “WTF is he talking about?”

    Well, that doesn’t really surprise me…I’ll pitch is soft and high: Do you think the Chinese would find the Plan B pill useful for a particular state policy?

    You know what, Michael, never mind — all due respect, this kind of discussion requires both side have a shared philosophical frame of reference and I don’t think we’re quite there. Nor do either one of us really have the desire or time to educate or understand the other.

  23. michael reynolds Says:

    J. Harden:

    In other words: you got nothin’. But you’re mad at me.

  24. J. Harden Says:

    Kranky — Interesting position. I didn’t really have you pegged as any sort of lemming for a social eugenics program. Obama would have been a perfect candidate for pill when his mother was a pregnant.

    But then I don’t live in any of the various worlds imagined into being by the various cultures of ideological perfection.

    Ah, the perfect sentence: 1) a self-congratulatory slap on the back, 2) a dig at the opposition and 3) the erection of a some ambiguous strawman.

    unwanted children being poorly raised by bad or overwhelmed parents with insufficient resources

    I don’t doubt that it is quite satisfying to play God, Kranky, if a little nerve-racking at times….

  25. J. Harden Says:

    I’m not mad at Michael. I just totally question your ability (or desire) to understand even the rudimentary basics of the Judeo-Christian tradition or much if any of the philosophical history of Western Civilization.

  26. kranky kritter Says:

    JH,

    Well done, tossing the ghosts of bad science and communist boogeymen (further up: central planning) round so freely. Thankfully, I an not a communist, nor do I collect data on skull size or anything like that. The god-playing thing is just a one off. No need to respond to that.

    These are all clever dodges that let you slither off the hook when it comes to addressing the undeniable fact of our nation’s enduring problem of unwanted children being poorly raised by bad or overwhelmed parents with insufficient resources. I have no intention of backing away from noticing it, just because you toss a couple of silly names at me.

    If we discuss these notions in the future, please try to take account of the obvious distinction between making something available and forcing someone to use it.

    Michael, I agree with you that a substantial component of human nature consists of overlooking our own inability to live up to the ideals we profess. You’re guilty, so am I, so is most everyone else.

    But this does not mean that the things which each of us profess can therefore be summarily dismissed. Nice try, but no sale. If pushed, I bet you’d agree.

    You have to this point given us no good support for the contention that pro-lifers primary goal is denying control to women. I am happy to acknowledge that if pro-lifers were to get their way on the law, that loss of control to women would ensue. I just don’t think it’s their goal. IMO it’s crystal clear that for most pro-lifers the goal is to end a practice that they think is a moral abomination. And they think that’s an important enough goal that they are willing to infringe on the freedom of choice of others.

    Which BTW is what we do every time we pass any law.

  27. J. Harden Says:

    These are all clever dodges that let you slither off the hook when it comes to addressing the undeniable fact of our nation’s enduring problem of unwanted children being poorly raised by bad or overwhelmed parents with insufficient resources. I have no intention of backing away from noticing it, just because you toss a couple of silly names at me.

    Dodge? Dodge What — the existence of poor people? The existence of young, out-of-wedlock pregnancies? The existence of pain & suffering? A worldview that values life at every stage is a dodge? No, Kranky, I’m far more of the old school belief that pain & suffering is an Inherent part of being alive. I don’t dodge it – I embrace it.

    You see poverty, you see pain and hard situations and your solution is not to alleviate the problem with charity and compassion and community, but to snuff out the life itself. A simple solution. Your whole premise is quite literally to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And sit back and feel smug and morally confident, because it wasn’t your “choice” — it was hers, the 17 year old girl. Isn’t that convenient for you? You don’t have to take any moral leadership, you don’t have to get involved in her problems, and you get to escape moral culpability because it is her choice, not yours. In addition, you get to say, “we’ve stopped the ‘enduring problem of unwanted children being poorly raised by bad or overwhelmed parents with insufficient resources.’” So you can claim all of the moral upside (if that what you want to call it), but none of the moral downside…perfect.

    Kranky, how did we get this place in our culture? I see relatively little charity. I see relatively little real community involvement. I see very few people willing to take in the poor and those people that have real problems. This is particularly true in large urban areas. I think Obama was elected because something deep within the human spirit wants a loving, compassionate, involved community that cares about people.

    Abortion, including this pill, takes us further away from that community and further into self-isolation, alienation and greater pain and suffering for the very people that you think it helps so much. I don’t think it helps anybody in the long run. It allows people like you and I which are in pretty good relative shape to conveniently deal with the pain and suffering of our community without actually having to be involved in anyone’s life. That is not an instrument of a healthy society, that is the instrument of a cold, dead society that no longer really cares about its members.

    So Kranky, I’m VERY GLAD that you don’t intend on backing away from Noticing it — now I would challenge you to do something about it, beyond suggesting to a 17 year old girl that a pill will alleviate her problems. Do more than notice Krank, go ahead and act on your proclaimed compassion and charity.

  28. Christie Says:

    I can somewhat understand where the conservatives are coming from…however I don’t agree with them calling the pill ‘the abortion pill’ http://www.newsy.com/videos/plan_b_the_new_plan_a/ I know that my friends’ parents never talked to them about sex, and because of this they would rather take the chance of getting pregnant rather than tell their parents they think they need the pill. Lowering the age is a smart decision, because if a girl thinks that she needs it, then she does regardless of her age. Its an issue of rights, not who might potentially abuse it. Another thing to consider is it’s price. Its not like you would want to spend $40 each time you have sex. It isn’t this new miracle drug, its a necessity when something goes wrong.

  29. Disruptive Women in Health Care » Blog Archive » Blog Roundup: FDA policy shift on Plan B Says:

    [...] blogosphere since the FDA’s decision not to appeal the federal court order. On Donklephant, Alan Stewart Carl noted: The change isn’t huge. The previous age for over-the-counter purchase was 18. But do not [...]

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