Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Obama and the morning-after pill

Irin Carmon tells the interesting story of a federal judge directly challenging the Obama Administration on the retrograde nature of its conservative stance on the "Plan B' morning-after pill in Judge rips Obama’s right-wing Plan B stance Salon 05/07/2013.

The FDA announced April 30 that it was approving the Plan B pill for women 15 and older. Laura Bassett explains in FDA Lowers Age Restriction On Plan B Morning-After Pill Huffington Post 04/30/2013:

The decision by the FDA only partially complies with a ruling handed down by a federal judge in early April, which instructed the FDA to lift all age restrictions on Plan B and make it available to everyone on pharmacy shelves. A panel of scientists at the FDA had recommended in 2011 that age restrictions be lifted on the morning-after pill, but Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled that recommendation, arguing that there was a lack of evidence showing that those under the age of 17 would use the pill appropriately.

By dropping the age limit to 15 instead of removing the limit entirely, the FDA has ensured that all women will still have to show an ID to the cashier in order to purchase the emergency contraception.
This was a case of the Obama Administration pandering to social conservatives who see the Plan B pill as a form of abortion and therefore evil. Of course, since it was approving the pill for women 15 and over, the Christian Right would still say it makes Obama a baby-killer. So it's yet another example of pathological centrism. And in particular of this Administration's fondness for showing its moderation by rolling back women's rights piece by piece.

District Court Judge Edward Korman reacted to the Obama Administration's position on this with unusually strong language for those situations. Carmon's article is worth reading in full. But I was especially struck by this:

The government didn’t argue the merits of requiring a photo ID or that the drug only be sold in locations with an on-site pharmacy, but Korman made clear why he found that to be an inadequate compromise: “You’re using these 11- and 12-year-olds to place an undue burden on women’s ability to access emergency contraception. If it’s an impediment to voting, it’s an impediment to get the drug.”

He cited Brennan Center statistics — which he said Eric Holder had also cited in a speech before the NAACP — showing that 25 percent of African-Americans of voting age don’t have a photo ID, and also dismissed the government’s suggestion that 15-year-olds, who usually aren’t eligible for a driver’s license, could use a birth certificate, since that’s not a photo ID. ”You’re disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor — that’s the policy of the Obama administration?” (He didn’t mention it, but immigrants would also face additional barriers.)
The Democratic base and their elected representatives need to take a hint from this judge and challenge the Obama Administration when it takes a conservative position like this that doesn't make good sense. And most conservative positions don't.

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