by Nancy Northup, President & CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights
As a mother, I can understand the visceral reaction of many parents to the idea of teens having direct access to emergency contraception.
But as the leader of the reproductive rights organization that sought the elimination of limits on the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception, I feel it’s my duty to ensure that the broader point of this effort—to expand access to a safe and reliable means of preventing unintended pregnancy for women of all ages—does not get lost.
As the federal judge who decided this case wrote, the issue of teen sexuality is a red herring that the U.S. government has used for more than a decade to impose restrictions motivated purely by politics—not science—that have placed barriers between women of all ages and the emergency contraception of which they sometimes find themselves in urgent need.
Emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is taken. But under FDA’s restrictions, women who arrived at the drugstore without proper ID—or after the time at which the pharmacy gates were closed for the night or even the weekend—were too often denied access to the drug.
The science is unequivocal: The court cited ample evidence clearly demonstrating not only the safety of emergency contraception (which poses far less danger than over-the-counter drugs such as pain relievers and cough medicine), but also the fact that women of all ages understand the drug’s proper use as a backup to regular birth control.
As to the more personal concerns, of course all parents should be talking to their kids about their views and values on sex—as I did and do regularly with my son and daughter.
But in the event that our kids find themselves at risk of unintended pregnancy, what is more troubling: That they could go into any drugstore and purchase a safe and effective means of preventing that unintended pregnancy? Or that they cannot obtain it because of the restrictions that have kept it locked behind the pharmacy counter?
In a country where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, clearing away the barriers to all safe and effective means of contraception is what must be regarded as common sense.