Patriarchal Practitioner in Chief

A preface, for an audience of one:

Mr. President, when I voted for you, I couldn’t imagine the anger I feel today. When the desire to maintain my personal, physical autonomy kept me in your corner despite a wealth of policy differences, I couldn’t anticipate my rage. There will be no whimsical Al Green intonations to charm me and ease your way off my shit list. Even if your FDA is forced to comply with the judge’s order and on Monday this is all a memory, I’ll still have that memory.

You brushed past the women who got you elected, who vowed to be the ground your domestic agenda stood on. We would yell and make demands and give you the political cover to make your policy possible. And you have scoffed at us, just days after being the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood. I gave you credit publicly for using the right words, for not shying away from the vocabulary of choice. But your words now ring hollow.

We are fighting for access at the local, state and federal level. You have made our fight harder. Precious resources which should go to women in need and ousting reprehensible, misogynistic, anti-choice legislators is directed at combating your administration’s policies. Please. Reverse your decision; comply with Judge Korman.

We’re asking nicely – for now.

Experts be damned. Screw science. Halt human rights. Fuck your base. Cancel the thank you cards.

Despite women and minorities having reelected President Obama on a wave of mixed enthusiasm and Romney paranoia, POTUS has given the group responsible for his second term the middle finger. The FDA handed down a decision on Plan B One-Step – the emergency contraception at the heart of a reproductive justice battle between the administration and a Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) lawsuit – which defies the federal court ruling demanding the medication be made available over the counter without restriction to all ages. The April 30th statement issued by the FDA that Plan B will now be available over-the-counter for ages 15 and up falls far short of the judicial order.

The Department of Health and Human Services is continuing its “we know best” attitude toward this essential medication. When President Obama cited his daughters in his statement of support for Director Kathleen Sebelius following her decision to brush aside the all-ages FDA recommendation in 2011, he forfeited much of his credibility on the issue. As reported in the New York Times:

“The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect,” Mr. Obama said to reporters at the White House.
“And I think most parents would probably feel the same way,” the president added.

Parents? Some, perhaps. Pediatricians? Definitely not. The American Academy of Pediatrics not only opposes the administration’s position, but also “encourages pediatricians to advocate for better insurance coverage and increased access to emergency contraception for teens, regardless of age.”

Assuming it’s not your basic misogynistic assertion that chicks can’t understand the usage instructions, what about the POTUS nod to parental consent? Not all young girls have parents as progressive as the President and First Lady. Beyond being paternalistic in nature, Obama’s stance indicates a lack of understanding on this issue.

Isn’t a 16 or 17-year-old who can’t talk to their parents about birth control more likely to end up in a situation that requires Plan B? That young woman already has to hope she lives in a state without a so-called “conscience clause” which would allow the local pharmacist to deny her birth control of any kind. Say she’s lucky enough to dodge that hurdle and has the driver’s license she’ll need for ID. Rural teens flashing their last names to the town pharmacist are likely to be outed to a family friend.

Teens are not the only group the president is abandoning – they’re not even the largest group. With this age restriction, anyone who looks borderline too young to purchase cigarettes would be subject to the identification requirement. Uninformed or ultra religious pharmacists would be free to exploit this to whatever degree they want. Even if a woman could prove that she shouldn’t have had to show ID and were simply subject to a religious control freak’s whim, she doesn’t exactly have time to sue.

Who suffers most often in these scenarios? The list should sound familiar as those who fall into these categories get the shaft in almost every public policy:

  • minorities
  • immigrants, both documented and undocumented
  • poor women
  • students
  • inner city residents
  • the disabled
  • Native American women
  • The list goes on and on and, of course, includes domestic abuse, rape and incest survivors.

    Every woman who falls somewhere on that list is significantly less likely to have the requisite identification than the people instituting these detrimental policies. And they already face higher barriers to care such as language, education, distance to clinics and pharmacies, discrimination and cost.

    The president isn’t just turning his back on US District Court Judge Edward Korman and his declaration on April 5 that emergency contraceptives are “among the safest drugs sold over the counter.” He is turning his back on already disadvantaged groups of women and young girls. Judge Korman correctly calls out the action of HHS as “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”

    Exactly; you can’t tell me there’s another classification of medication that would be subject to this kind of scrutiny backed with the budget required to defend the positions of two presidential administrations. Ignoring your own experts, submitting the policy to public comment, and defying judicial orders would have been unthinkable for blood pressure medication, for example, or, hold the phone — Viagra. Gasp!

    Medical groups as basic as WebMD have denounced this nonsense. The larger scientific community has weighed in as well with Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program expressing concern: “The agency needs to be able to do its job without fearing that the integrity of its work will be compromised.”

    When challenged to explain why the April 30 statement of policy does not comply with science, common sense and the federal court order, FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said that the statement in question “is independent of the judge’s ruling and is not intended to address it.”

    What?

    According to USA Today, who’s editorial board met with FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg last week, the agency hasn’t decided on an official response to the judge’s order. All questions on that are being referred to the Department of Justice which is handling the legal proceedings.

    I had to read that twice to be sure I wasn’t looking at an old article. The litigation has been going on since before Google existed, so it wouldn’t be unfathomable for poor search engine results on the issue. And yet, nope. It’s dated the day of the 15+ with ID policy release.

    What kind of bureaucratic nonsense would lead the FDA to release this decision six days before the deadline issued by Judge Korman if it wasn’t ultimately the intended response from the administration? Jefferson can’t possibly expect us to buy that a resolution which took more than a decade and spanned four presidential terms will prompt additional action between now and the 30-day deadline, can she?

    Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, doesn’t seem to be buying that explanation either:

    “The FDA is under a federal court order that makes it crystal clear that emergency contraception must be made available over the counter, without restriction to women of all ages by next Monday,” Northup said in a CRR-issued statement. “These are daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops women are forced to jump through in time-sensitive circumstances, and we will continue our battle in court to remove these arbitrary restrictions on emergency contraception for all women.”

    Exactly. 15-years-old is an extraordinarily indiscriminate age. In a society where misinformation on the science of Plan B and the perception that women who utilize this birth control method are slutty flow freely through schools, churches and crisis pregnancy centers, the last thing we need is additional, arbitrary uterine control. As the proof Elizabeth Gettelman of Mother Jones so deftly assembled depicts, woman have already endured 3500 years of fighting to be the Masters of the Uterus.” It’s long past time that we claim that title.

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    Categories: Finding My Voice

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4 replies

  1. Ugh, unfortunately now we know why the FDA announced this decision. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the FDA lowered the age the day before the Dept announced its appeal. Thank you for taking the time to list why this ID requirement for such a safe medication (I mean WebMD even said it! Come on!) is harmful to so many people.

  2. Well said Katie. Middle finger is right. The judge was clear.

    Dennis

  3. Way to go, Katie. I can tell this is a cathartic piece in addition to being informative on a topic the media seems to neglect. You now need a broader audience – You think the Daily Show could do something with this? Would they touch it? Hmmmm. . . .

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