Please Speak Up About the Plan B Decision!

It was probably obvious yesterday that we earnestly thought the FDA might finally turn around a longtime decision, one largely against all advice, information and recommendations from sexual, reproductive and adolescent health and rights experts and advocates, when it came to unfounded restrictions long put on teen access to Plan B.

And that was going to actually happen. The FDA was on board this time around and made the decision to ditch those restrictions. People under 17 were finally going to have the same kind of access to a safe, important kind of contraception those over 17 had, a kind of access there is simply no sound reason to restrict.

And yet.

In what Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check so rightfully said can, "only be called an astounding move by an Administration that pledged on inauguration day that medical and health decisions would be based on fact not ideology and for which women are a major constituency, today Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) overruled a much-awaited decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception (EC) available over-the-counter (OTC) to women of all ages."

I don't think we can express enough how tremendously and deeply frustrated and infuriated we are here that our optimism was in vain and was so outrageously gutted.

You can read more about it here and here and see the memorandum from Kathleen Sebelius here.

If you're like many of our readers and Facebook fans, reading those things will leave you feeling just as angry as we feel about it, if not more so.

It's so tremendously important your frustrations and opposition be heard (perhaps particularly by an administration which rallied youth for their support in getting elected and were so greatly benefitted when young people stood up for them).

It's so tremendously important that your requests for rights like these be heard. And that the incredibly sound, sage things you say like this from reader Arai, "These politicians really need to get on the same CENTURY as the one young people live. All the questioning for contraceptives, abortion rights, gay marriage are real in today's society," or this from reader Katrina, "Politicians on both sides of the aisle reach unheard of levels of cluelessness when it comes to youth reproductive rights and needs," are heard and seen. It is, of course just as important that they are also very thoughtfully and with great intention considered in choices like this, but we can't help much with that part, save continuing to say things like that and continuing to be ardent supporters of youth rights, including reproductive rights.

But what we can certainly help with is to provide at least one place where you can speak your mind about this and be seen and heard, and then take those comments and get more eyes on them from there.

Please leave your comments here about this decision if you are unhappy with it. Please pitch in to help add your voice to other youth voices about this issue if you want to do one of the most basic things you can, the most important things you can, to work towards a different, better, fairer, outcome.

Like we told one of our readers today when she asked why young people should have to ask, beg even, for rights you should have in the first place, the only answer we have is that you shouldn't. But just like other groups have had to voice a strong desire for rights they never should have -- like women and people of color seeking the right to vote, people of color seeking the same essential useful rights white people had, LGBT people asking for the same rights, freedoms and protections cisgender or straight people have -- you've got to keep doing the same with rights like this if you want them.

You shouldn't have to: you absolutely shouldn't have to. But, for now, you do.

Speak your mind: we want to hear you and other people, including this administration -- whether you're a citizen or not -- need to start hearing you. And listening.

P.S.: Would you rather blog about it in a different place? If you do, leave a link!

P.P.S.: The petition in protest of Secretary Sebelius' action is here.


Where I live the age of consent is 16. If a 16 year old is legally allowed to have sex and is trusted in that way why can a 16 year old not get Emergency Contraception if they need it? They trust a 16 year old to have sex but then don't allow them reasonable options in an emergency? This does not make sense to me.

Well, first of all, I'm not exactly a teenager. But I suppose 22 years old does still qualify as "young person." I feel inspired to contribute here because I have spent a good portion of the day having conversations with people of all ages about the continuing pointless restrictions placed on contraception. I am struck by the uniformity of the responses - "When will THEY treat us like people who are capable of making their own decisions?" "When will THEY stop being so stupid?" "When will THEY change?"

I want to encourage more young people to take on a radical perspective - the right to control our own bodies is not a right that we should have to ask for, or beg for. Women are not a special interest group; we're half of the world's population. And adults need to hear that from us - "I'm not a special interest group. I'm your daughter/sister/niece. Why am I old enough to be forced to have a child, but too young to protect myself from pregnancy and STDs?"

Let's get radical. Make stickers. Make zines. "Sexual Abstinence is Fantasy, Not Reality." "Babies Should Not Be Used As A Punishment." "I'm Your Daughter and I Have A Voice." I'm not advocating for creating tension in the home, but the people blocking changes like this deserve to hear a little more back talk. -- xoxo, Claire

Heather, and the first commenter, have said pretty much everything I wanted to and much more eloquently, but the more people speaking out the better. This ruling is....well, it's ridiculous. Plan B is less risky than a lot of other medications available OTC, it's a very important one, and it should be available with no age restrictions. Period. End of story. Young people should have the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives, and that's really all there is to it.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

"the age of consent here is 16, and what with the four-year policy, you can legally have sex when you’re 12 years old.

you can have sex in my state when you are 12 years old, but you can’t have access to over the counter emergency contraception until you’re 17. that doesn’t even make fucking sense. even if you are going by 16, the actual age of consent, that still makes no fucking sense.

I am 16 years old. I could go out and fuck whoever I want to, essentially, as long as they are willing and not in a position of power over me. and I could get pregnant and have an abortion without telling my mom or without telling my doctor.

but I can’t prevent a pregnancy? I can’t decide for myself whether or not I want a baby until I am already pregnant?

that’s fucked up.

what happens when we girls turn 17 years old? what new information do we wake up with that suddenly makes us able to make such a choice for ourselves - a choice that we apparently weren’t capable of making the day before?

let’s say I have sex and god forbid, the condom breaks. for whatever reason I can’t tell my mom. I have to WAIT however many torturous weeks until I can discover whether or not I actually am pregnant, and, if I am, I will have to undergo the very procedure these conservatives are arguing so fiercely against.

in the words of nick kristof - contraceptives no more cause sex than umbrellas cause rain."

Editor & Founder, Scarleteen: Sex Ed for the Real World
Author, S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and Col

I am NOT an American, but I'm a YA Canadian. I think that teenagers up from the minimum state permitted age deserve this just in case. Why the U.S. government overrulled such a good decision baffles me, if not political considerations then what?

- Kyle Brooks

When I read about this insulting decision, I felt this overwhelming jumble of emotion and anger. How dare they...? Why...? How...?

As a young person (and probably as an older person, too, though I can only speak for 24 year old me right now), it is very easy to feel disillusioned, and even apathetic, about politics in our country. The 2008 presidential election was the first I was old enough to vote in, and I felt so excited and so taken with the enthusiasm for change.

Now, I feel jaded. Irritated. Used. I also feel at near-zero motivation to really care about the circus which is becoming 2012, at this point.

It's moves like this one which are pushing along this apathy, the thing I detested in people when I went door to door as a canvasser for NARAL in 2010. The reality that decisions are made based on POLITICS alone sets in --- I do wonder if the FDA had made this finding in the first year Obama was in office, what the outcome would have been versus now, as we head into election season.

As young people (or young-ish, as I'm calling myself these days), we need to force the older folks to listen. There are a lot of us, we are strong and we adept with technology and social networking. We all need to send very strong messages using our petitions, our voices and, importantly, our votes -- to make our voices heard. Because this isn't acceptable.

I question the assumption that men who "prey on vulnerable minors" (Stein, 2011) think about whether their victim will become pregnant or not before they attack. If someone wants to attack a young girl, a restriction on EC won't stop him.

This is such terrible news. I have heard plenty of people say that they approve of the restriction because either A) 16-year-olds (and under-16s) should not be having sex, and B) If they are having sex, they need to tell their parents and get parental approval for birth control. This line of thinking is ridiculous. Even if you believe that teenagers should not have sex and/or teenagers need to tell their parents that they are having sex, the fact of the matter is that female-bodied people who buy Plan B almost always do so because they just had unprotected sex or they just had an accident with birth control (the condom broke, etc.). Either way, the sex has already happened, so the person who wants to buy Plan B needs access to it right away--let's not forget that Plan B is time sensitive! Sure, I hope that young girls can and will discuss sex and birth control with their parents before, during, and after they start to have sex. That would be great. But that is not how the world works always works. And no 14-year-old girl needs to get pregnant because the U.S. is trying to pretend that keeping the young away from Plan B will stop them from having sex.

My name is Lauren. I am eighteen years old, and no matter how you look at it, I am not a virgin. I realize that at eighteen, and living in Canada, I have access to pretty much everything I could need or want, other than alcohol and tobacco which hardly rate as priorities, but I am shocked and so disappointed that girls under 16 do not have access to Emergency Contraception in the US. I also hope that this does not make it impossible for people under seventeen to GET EC, just illegal. If my younger sister came to me saying she had been having sex and a condom broke, or she was under the influence of something and had sex, or simply had sex and now doesn't feel comfortable with whatever protection she was using, I would not hesitate to go out and get it for her. Same could be said of a few close friends who are 16. I think this is ridiculous and demeaning. If we call "safe sex" protected sex, then this decision denies girls the right to their own safety. I applaud Scarleteen for supporting girls in this (and of course guys as well) and everything else in sex ed, which is really about a lot more than just sex, as we all know. Denying girls this is not just denying a pill, it is a stupid way of denying them independence, and a national statement that adults in power do not trust youth. Something's gotta give.

PS, love above quote to the effect that birth control causes sex like an umbrella causes rain.

I have used plan B. I am a college student who is fully aware of the risks of sex and as such uses condoms with my one partner. However we had a night where the condom broke and I took the RESPONSIBILITY of protecting myself against an unwanted pregnancy by taking plan B. It should be available to any woman who wants it, as it is a way of being responsible and smart about her sex life. There is no reason to not have it available to the general public.