August 24, 2006

Feminists Respond to Morning-After Pill Decision with Local Picket and Legal Action

The Food and Drug Administration has announced its plans to ease the restrictions on the Morning-After Pill (brand name Plan B) for women 18 and older. Feminists with the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy are outraged by the restrictions placed on the drug, and vow to seek full over-the-counter access with both legal pressure and a picket at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office in NYC today at 5:30.

"This decision is only a partial victory. It's imperative for feminists to oppose this arbitrary age restriction," said Annie Tummino, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Tummino vs Von Eschenbach, that charges the FDA with discriminating against women by holding Plan B to a different standard than it does other drugs. "Our lawsuit will move forward and challenge this age restriction in court, while feminists continue to mobilize in the streets."

This is the first time in history that the Food and Drug Administration has proposed the creation of a separate status for a non-prescription drug.

"This move effectively makes Plan B behind-the-counter. We will have to show a pharmacist an ID in order to get birth control that is perfectly safe for women of all ages." said Erin Mahoney, another plaintiff in the suit and founding chair of the Women's Liberation Birth Control Project, a NYC-based feminist organization. "The restriction is unnecessary, and frankly, it's sexist."
While the proposed age has quietly climbed from 16 to 18 in the past two years, the FDA's excuse for the restriction remains the same: access to birth control might increase the likelihood that teenagers will have unprotected sex. If the FDA is really so concerned about safe sex, it should push men to wear condoms, not punish women by withholding birth control.

This is not a decision for over-the-counter, this decision traps the MAP behind the counter requiring that women be carded for this safe, effective form of birth control. An age restriction also means that
women have to find pharmacies that stock MAP and pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions within the first 24 hours after sex, when it is most effective in preventing pregnancy. The FDA's
proposed age restriction is just another in a long list of tactics the agency has used over the past three years to block women's access to the Morning-After Pill and to toe the anti-birth control line of the Bush Administration and other right-wing conservatives.

New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney says, "I am pleased that FDA has finally made a decision that will significantly benefit women's health. But I'm still concerned that politics is driving this issue. The product has not changed in 3 years, but the political climate has. The president can no longer afford to ignore the majority of Americans who want access to safe birth control.

"I pledge to further my efforts to help women of all ages receive the safest and most effective healthcare available and work to reduce the arbitrary age restriction on the OTC use of Plan B that is not supported by the science.  I am deeply concerned that this barrier, coupled with the ongoing problem of pharmacists imposing their personal beliefs on consumers and refusing to fill legal prescriptions, will threaten women's access to birth control."