Emergency contraception and the FDA

February 10, 2011 § 2 Comments


I’ve written quite a lot about emergency contraception, and in particular about the shady age restrictions that dictate who can and can’t buy it over the counter.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has an excellent recap:

The Center sued the FDA in 2005 for failing to grant over-the-counter status to emergency contraception (a.k.a Plan B) against the advice of its scientific experts and in violation of its own procedures and regulations. In 2006, the FDA agreed to make Plan B available without a prescription, but only to women 18 and over and only behind the pharmacy counter.

Plan B is now available over-the-counter for anyone age 17 or over, but remains inaccessible to those under 17 even though “medical and scientific consensus provides no rationale for age restrictions on Plan B.”

Today, emergency contraception is available without a prescription, but only for women age 17 and older. Pharmacies and clinics must keep it behind the counter and anyone seeking to buy it must show government issued identification proving their age in order to buy it without a prescription.
These intrusive restrictions, unprecedented for drugs with over-the-counter status, make it harder and more stigmatizing for consumers to get the contraception during its most effective window.

These restrictions are undeniably motivated by political and social pressures that seek to legislate sexuality. (I’ll quote myself: “It’s more than obvious that the conservative movement to restrict access is not about the health and safety of teenage women, but about legislating who is and isn’t allowed to have sex.”) Never mind that the political leaders who restrict Plan B access, which prevents conception after unprotected sex, are the same people who restrict abortion access — abortion being what women might logically turn to when faced with an unplanned pregnancy that using Plan B might have prevented in the first place.

But this morning brought some good news:

Moments ago, Teva, the manufacturer of the emergency contraceptive (EC) Plan B, announced that it filed an application with the FDA requesting that EC be available over-the-counter without a prescription for women of all ages.

While it’s phenomenal that Teva has put this pressure on the FDA, their request will only affect restrictions on their specific emergency contraception product. In an email, the Center for Reproductive Rights emphasized: “We want the FDA to know that it is still required to obey the law and end all restrictions once and for all –- not on a piece meal basis.”

They have a petition to pressure Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA Commissioner of Food and Drugs, to end senseless age restrictions on all forms of emergency contraception. Please sign here.


Back Up Your Birth Control!

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment


It’s the 10th anniversary of the Back Up Your Birth Control day of action. Today is an opportunity to learn about emergency contraception (EC), how it works, when you can take it, and why access to it is threatened — and a reminder to back yourself up!

This day is a project of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. They have an awesome website where you can find answers to some common questions, as well as ideas for EC-related activism:

Sign the petition calling on the FDA to end restrictions on EC. Tell the FDA to stop stalling and expand over-the-counter access to EC to women of all ages.

Sign the petition to say that contraception is prevention. Speak out to help ensure that comprehensive contraceptive care, including EC, is covered free of charge under the preventive care provision of health care reform.

Sign ’em! And back it up, ladies. It’s so much easier to buy over-the-counter emergency contraception now so you have it on hand; if the need arises, you can skip the anxious rush to the drugstore when you or your friend is in a bind.

This Lady, Right Here

August 26, 2010 § 1 Comment


Remember this epic fail of an article from back in April, in which Newsweek posited that young voters, women in particular, are “lukewarm” on pro-choice politics and think abortion rights “don’t need defending”?

Ugh. If you’d forgotten, I’m sorry to bring it up.

The article relies heavily on commentary from Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. To be fair, there are not many direct quotes from her, but there are monumentally disheartening paragraphs like this:

NARAL president Nancy Keenan had grown fearful about the future of her movement even before the health-care debate. Keenan considers herself part of the “postmenopausal militia,” a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who grew up in an era of backroom abortions and fought passionately for legalization. Today they still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women.

Ahem. Emphasis on the “they still run.” Young women, and particularly young women of color, are systematically kept out of the boardroom and away from leadership positions in non-profit and advocacy groups. Latifa Lyles’ campaign for president of NOW is a perfect example of this. Notes from the campaign in June 2009:

Both contenders [Latifa Lyles and Terry O’Neill] expect the election to be close, and both are promoting themselves as best able to bolster NOW’s membership.

“We are not the strongest grass-roots movement we can be — we both agree on that,” Lyles said. “The question is how we deal with that.”

Noting that she contrasts with NOW’s mostly white and over-40 membership, Lyles said she could help give NOW a new image of youth and diversity that would appeal to younger feminists and reinvigorate the broader movement.

“The profile of NOW is just as important as the work we do,” she said. “There are a lot of antiquated notions about what feminism is.”

Lyles, a 33-year-old black vice president of the organization, was edged out by 56-year-old white activist Terry O’Neill, despite an enthusiastic endorsement by NOW’s then-president Kim Gandy. Qualified, passionate, well-recommended… but not elected. Clearly it’s not for lack of interest that young women aren’t running the pro-choice show.

Back to Keenan and NARAL.

These leaders will retire in a decade or so. And what worries Keenan is that she just doesn’t see a passion among the post-Roe generation — at least, not among those on her side.

THIS SHIT IS OUTRAGEOUS. MY PRO-CHOICE GIRLS GOT PASSION RUNNING OUT THEIR EARS. For me, the cherry on top is that I have been volunteering at NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the state affiliate of the national NARAL, for years.

I just don’t know what we have to do to be seen and heard. Online activism isn’t taken seriously, apparently — even though groups like NARAL certainly rely on blogs and social networking sites to get the word out. But it seems that the hundreds of hours of in-person volunteer work that this lady, right here has contributed — collecting petition signatures for the Reproductive Health Act, calling voters in support of pro-choice candidates, distributing condoms and information about emergency contraception, blah blah blah — aren’t taken seriously either.

Jessica Valenti was so fucking right on when she wrote of this debacle last summer:

Who do you think has been making your photocopies and volunteering and organizing for these big organizations all of these years?

The work of the mainstream pro-choice movement is built on younger women’s labor — unpaid and underpaid — who do the majority of the grunt work but who are rarely recognized. And I don’t know about you — but I’m sick of working so hard on behalf of a movement that continues to insist that we don’t exist.

Where would NARAL Pro-Choice America or NOW be without the work done by younger women?

Who would do their outreach? Who would volunteer? Who would take unpaid internships? Who would carry their action items on blogs and forward them by email, Facebook and Twitter? Who would Blog for Choice?

Seriously, what would happen if young women decided they had enough of being ignored and started simply decided to stop working for these organizations? Even if for a month young women boycotted the organizations that refuse to acknowledge their hard work — the movement would fall on its ass.

And there’s the rub — young women don’t want to forsake this movement. We don’t want to let it crumble to the side of the road, because control over our own bodies is infinitely more important than “postmenopausal militia” doubt about our commitment. Dropping out of the race is counterproductive. We’re still running, we’re still working damn fucking hard, no matter what any president says.

Check out all the other entries in the THIS IS WHAT A YOUNG FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE blog carnival over at Fair and Feminist.

Edited for clarity on August 27.

Back Up Your Birth Control

March 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Wednesday March 24 is 2010’s Back Up Your Birth Control NYC Day of Action, hosted by an organization I love to talk about on Women’s Glib — NARAL Pro-Choice NY. Shira and I participated in the Day last year and had a blast. During the event, volunteers stand outside NYC subway stations, handing out free condoms and information about emergency contraception. (This is an especially fun way to volunteer since you’ll get virtually no backlash — in my experience, everyone loves a free condom.) You can join a group of NARAL volunteers at certain stations, or organize at your own stop — it’s up to you (they’re big on choice at NARAL).

Here are the deets for this year’s event:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Create your own shift anytime between 7:30am — 7:30pm

If you are organizing at your own subway stop, please RSVP by Wednesday, March 17 to ensure that there is enough time for us to mail you the materials and condoms. NARAL staff will bring materials for all those joining us in Union Square or Herald Square.

14th St. Union Square, 12:00 – 2:00 pm
34 St. Herald Square, 5:00 – 7:00 pm

To RSVP contact Lalena Howard at lhoward@prochoiceny.org, with your stop, shift, and contact info for all members of your group. Also check out the Facebook event page.

Happy volunteering!

My Dilemma

February 10, 2010 § 5 Comments

As many of you may know, Laura Chinchilla will become the first female president of Costa Rica this May. She won the title this Sunday by pretty much a landslide; Chinchilla won over 46.76% of voters, while the 2nd place politician received only about 25% of the popular vote.

President-elect Chinchilla will join “the tiny club of female president in Latin America” once she takes office, a group that currently encompasses Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Christina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina. Panama and Nicaragua have had female chiefs-of-state in the past.

But here’s the thing. I want to be so, so happy for Chinchilla and the cracks that her victory has (hopefully) made in the Latin American and global glass ceiling. It’s wonderful that 46.76% of Costa Rican voters have faith in a woman politician — that is not all too common.

But when I turn my attention to Chinchilla’s actual politics, this happiness gets a little turned upside-down. She’s anti-choice. She doesn’t believe in emergency contraception. She doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage. And so a dilemma emerges; while I believe that Chinchilla’s presence in the office of the presidency will be inspiring to women in Costa Rica and elsewhere, I do not believe that her policies will help women reach a similar level of achievement.

And isn’t it just as sexist to celebrate a woman’s victory solely because she’s a woman, as it would be to celebrate a man’s victory because he’s a man? 

What are your thoughts? Are you excited about this political development?

Scott Brown

January 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

is just bad-news-bears for us women. Here is why, in short, the new Senator-Elect from MA is not a woman’s best friend.

– His position on abortion is actually not as bad as they come, since he does not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, but his views still do not reflect true respect for our right to choose: he supports parental consent laws, opposes giving government money to abortion clinics, and thinks that hospitals and doctors that are strongly religious should be allowed to deny emergency contraception to women on ‘moral grounds’ and send them elsewhere. Even rape victims! I don’t need to tell you why this is royally fucked up- if a women needs Plan B, she needs it FAST. And if she happens to be poor and transportation beyond her nearest hospital is really hard for her….well, you get the picture. Doctors should be made to do their fucking jobs, even if it makes them uncomfortable. End of story.

– In 2001, he called the family situation of his opponent, lesbian politician Cheryl Jacques, “not normal” and referred to her parental duties as “alleged.” What?????

And I am personally not a huge fan of his other platforms: he supports the use of torture interrogation methods such as waterboarding, does not care about limiting the outrageous bonuses of Wall Street execs, and wants to deny immigrants who have yet to receive legal status driver’s licenses and public education. And perhaps most importantly, he will occupy the 41st Republican seat, which gives the Republican Party just enough votes to really shoot down any legislation that’s coming through.



January 6, 2010 § 12 Comments

I turned eighteen today. I can now vote, buy cigarettes, porn, sex toys, and lottery tickets, and join the military. (Still can’t drink, though.)

I can now get an abortion or purchase emergency contraception anywhere in this country without my parents’ notification or consent. And GOSH, am I glad I couldn’t do either of those things yesterday!!! I was just a child then. That one day, the one magical day where I transformed from a naive and agency-deprived baby girl into a strong, full-grown woman really made a difference.


What changes when you turn eighteen? Something in your brain clicks, and then you can be absolutely sure you’ll make the right reproductive health decisions for yourself? Bullshit.

Teenage women have the right to make decisions about their own fucking bodies. We don’t take these decisions lightly, and we don’t make these difficult choices just for funsies — we go behind our parents’ backs when our lives depend on doing so.

It feels good to be eighteen — but I can’t say I feel any stronger or wiser than I did 24 hours ago.

Calling All NYC Pro-Choice Activists!

September 1, 2009 § 1 Comment

NARAL Pro-Choice New York is hands-down one of my favorite progressive nonprofits. They’re on the political, legislative, and community fronts working to secure safe and legal abortions for all women who want them. They also publish key resources like a pro-choice voter guide (here’s the one for September’s primaries); the Book of Choices, a comprehensive state-wide list of options for women facing unplanned pregnancies (in English and Spanish); a city-wide resource guide for free and low-cost reproductive health care; and a list of open-minded, pro-choice doctors who specialize in adolescent health (again, in English and Spanish).

That’s why I’m thrilled that they are seeking new members aplenty for their Activist Leadership Circle, a group of volunteers that Shira and I have been a part of since January.

We’ve written quite a bit about our work with NARAL, which has included calling voters directly during group phonebanks, distributing condoms and information about emergency contraception, rallying support for the Reproductive Health Act, and getting pissed when our efforts were essentially derailed by the childish behavior rampant in the New York state senate. We’ve also covered their fabulous Choices event series (though I’m sad to say I couldn’t make it to any of those three lectures).

Please consider donating your skills and pro-choice passion to this incredible organization. Here’s what’s involved in joining the Activist Leadership Circle…

Wednesday, 9/9/09, 6:00-8:30 pm: Welcome & NARAL Pro-Choice New York 101

Saturday, 9/12/09, time and location TBD: Pro-Choice Election Day of Action

Wednesday, 9/16/09, 6:00-8:00 pm: How to Talk About the Issues and Take Action

Wednesday, 9/23/09, 6:00-8:00 pm: Graduation and Welcome Party

All events (except the day of action) will take place at the NARAL Offices, 470 Park Avenue South, 7th Floor (you’ll need ID!).

And here’s what to expect when you join…

The Circle has three Action Groups that allow members to get involved in the work that is most exciting to them.

After attending our four-part series of new member trainings, you’ll be able to join one of three Action Groups:

Outreach Action Group: The Outreach Action Group is responsible for getting more people involved in NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s activist efforts and disseminating life-saving resources and information through tabling at events, street canvassing, and on-line event posting.

Political and Legislative Action Group: The Political and Legislative Action Group participates in efforts to elect pro-choice candidates such as election phone banks, disseminating voter guides, and representing NARAL Pro-Choice New York in campaign offices. Members will also help pass pro-active, pro-choice legislation by participating in legislation phone banks, petitioning, and lobbying efforts.

Reproductive Health Education Group: The Reproductive Health Education Group’s current project is researching the issue of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in New York State in order to develop a strategic advocacy plan. The Reproductive Health Education Group will also be a space to discuss emerging reproductive health issues and develop new initiatives to address them.

You can read more about the project details here and here.

If you are interested in joining the Activist Leadership Circle, contact NARAL’s community organizer Lalena Howard at lhoward@prochoiceny.org or 646-520-3506. Feel free to email me at womensglib@gmail.com if you have any questions about the structure or current projects of the circle.

Cross-posted at Deeply Problematic.

Palin’s anti-choice legacy

July 6, 2009 § 1 Comment

Via Feministing, a post by Clara Jeffery of Mother Jones tells us that one of Palin’s last acts in office was to accelerate a parental notice and consent law for women under 18 who are seeking abortion.

We see this shit all the time: my sisters’ rights to our own bodies are routinely taken away in the name of paternalistic “protection.” We saw it in the conservative media hoopla when the FDA approved over-the-counter access to emergency contraception for women 17 and older, as opposed to an earlier 18 and older policy (my favorite Mike Galanos quote: “With Plan B, they can do it now and deal with it later”). And we’re seeing it again with Palin. Nevermind that young women who don’t tell their parents about their abortion have damn good reasons for keeping quiet.

Before news of the resignation, Beverly Wooley and Jay Butler, two of Alaska’s public health experts, were essentially forced out of office for meddling in Palin’s anti-choice crusade.

Both [Wooley and Butler] made the critical mistake of wanting to present scientific evidence on the impact of parental consent laws to the state Senate. They never got the chance; the Senate “ran out of time.” From the Anchorage Daily News:

Wooley said she also intended to answer questions from legislators and said she would rely on data, not anyone’s personal beliefs. Whether she personally agreed with the governor is beside the point, Wooley said.

She intended to refer to studies from states that already had passed similar legislation, she said. Some of the research shows that, with parental involvement requirements, girls tend to get abortions later in their pregnancy, which is riskier and more expensive, she said. Other research shows fewer girls get abortions, which abortion foes like Palin likely would applaud. Wooley cautioned that the studies are small and not definitive because such laws are still fairly new.

That was enough to get her canned. And guess what? The next day, the very day that Palin resigned:

A proposal to require parental notice or consent before a female younger than 18 could have an abortion was certified Thursday by the state so that its backers can seek enough signatures to get the initiative before voters next year.

So, Sarah Palin may be gone soon. But her policies live on.

I’d just like to say: this is outrageous. Not only that Palin is so clearly shaming young women for having sex (how crazy is that? Women having sex?! News to me!); not only that she is firing staff for, in Clara Jeffery’s words, making the “critical mistake of wanting to present scientific evidence…to the state Senate” (I mean, I know Palin is scared of science, but come on!); but also that a young woman’s fundamental right to control her own body is being set aside in favor of abortion statistics.

Even if the stats show that requiring parental consent for teenagers’ abortions lowers rates — party at the Palin anti-choice mansion, anyone? I love me some barbecued moose — I still need the right to get the procedure without my parents knowing! Statistics and evidence are of course vitally important to crafting effective legislation, but reproductive rights and bodily integrity should not depend on whichever survey is being considered. They are fundamental.

Cross-posted at Feministe.

What the DOE doesn’t want you reading

July 6, 2009 § 1 Comment

Hey Women’s Glib: this is my first real guest post on Feministe. My introductory post, if you’re curious, is here.

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I will be a senior at a public high school in NYC this fall. (As much as I’d like to forget all about school during these fleeting summer months, it still seems to be on my mind.) As far as public schools go, mine is pretty well furnished. We have a dedicated Parents’ Association that puts on impressive fundraisers, and most of our students come from families privileged enough to donate — though because of massive budget cuts (even worse than last year’s), all of the nifty electives our teachers planned for are simply not happening next year.

So we’re relatively well off, and that means we have quite a few computers: one in each classroom, mostly for teacher use; a few in our small school library; and around forty in a lab that’s available for us students to use during our free periods and afterschool.

The problem is that when you’re using a computer at school, finding what you’re looking for on the internet can be quite a task. You see, the New York City Department of Education uses Websense, a service that “provide[s] hundreds of organizations around the world with the latest security warnings on malicious Internet events including spyware, phishing, spam, crimeware and compromised Web sites.” In our case, the so-called “malicious” and “compromised” sites are identified by categories; if the program picks up on one of its trigger categories, the entire website will be blocked.

So what does the DOE consider “malicious” enough to block?

The category “personal networking” is blocked. This is ostensibly to stop students from logging on to Facebook, though I’m of the opinion that a little downtime on Facebook would make kids more relaxed and productive overall — but this also means that I can’t read Shapely Prose and some other blogs while at school.

The category “pro-choice” is blocked. This means that not only am I unable to use NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s Book of Choices to find a clinic where I can pick up free emergency contraception, I’m also unable to do research on abortion laws for an assigned project.

The categories “sexuality” and “homosexuality” are blocked. This means that not only am I unable to look up counseling resources from the Anti-Violence Project to use in a Gay-Straight Alliance club meeting, I’m also unable to find HIV/AIDS infection statistics in preparation for my school’s AIDS Action Day.

These are just a few categories that have given me trouble recently. I’m sure there’s a wealth of even-more-taboo keywords that are also blocked. Obviously there’s quite a lot of unbiased information that the DOE doesn’t want students worrying our silly little heads about.

Cross-posted at Feministe.

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