I’m Political and I’m Upset

I am a political person. I care about the politics of women and I have no problem using My Orange Chair to talk about this. Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ used her power to overrule the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to make emergency contraception available over the counter for all women, including girls under 17. This decision was unprecedented, unexpected, and in my opinion, ridiculous. 


I understand that many people will have different opinions about this issue. Parents may support Sibelius and the administration because they want to know what their teens are doing. Others may morally opposed plan B outright. 


My feeling is that, in its truest form, this act ONLY serves to take away a woman’s choice to manage her body. AND I have to say, if you’re waiting for a confrontation with your parents, a doctor’s appointment, and a prescription, you’re rendering plan B useless – you really are just removing this option altogether for young women and we have so few options as it is. 


Many of the arguments I’ve heard so far in support of Sibelius only point to the fact that we have deep systemic issues. 
The problem: We shouldn’t be giving medication to young girls when they do not have education about it. 
The fix: (1) Comprehensive sex education in all schools, (2) Allowing pharmacists to do what they’re trained to do, not just deal with insurance issues. 


The problem: Parents should know what is going on with their teens. 
The fix: Get realistic expectations about teenagers and give young women some credit. I lived in a pretty open environment with my parents and I wasn’t even comfortable telling them I was sexually active. I can’t imagine having to tell them I was pregnant. And if I were – I know exactly what I would’ve done and I would’ve taken it seriously. But there’s a lot of shame and blame going on in our culture towards women who have sex which makes it inherently more difficult to talk about. 


I don’t believe for a second that Sibelius made this decision on her own – I’m irritated with the administration’s phony paternalism. Here’s a clip from Salon writer Rebecca Traister: 

“As the father of two daughters,” Obama told reporters, “I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”
First of all, the president was not talking about “various rules.” He was supporting a very specific rule, one that prevents young women from easily obtaining a drug that can help them control their reproductive lives, at an age when their economic, educational, familial and professional futures are perhaps most at risk of being derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. “As the father of two daughters,” Obama might want to reconsider his position on preventing young women from being able to exercise this form of responsibility over their own bodies and lives.
But as an American, I think it is important for my president not to turn to paternalistic claptrap and enfeebling references to the imagined ineptitude and irresponsibility of his daughters – and young women around the country – to justify a curtailment of access to medically safe contraceptives. The notion that in aggressively conscribing women’s abilities to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy Obama is just laying down some Olde Fashioned Dad Sense diminishes an issue of gender equality, sexual health and medical access. Recasting this debate as an episode of “Father Knows Best” reaffirms hoary attitudes about young women and sex that had their repressive heyday in the era whence that program sprang.

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