This Goes Out to All the Ladies

From The American Prospect:

Having won re-election on the backs of women voters, Obama should thank them by reversing last year’s disastrous decision on Plan B.

Amanda Marcotte
November 29, 2012

This past election, President Barack Obama made blatant appeals to female voters to great success. Fifty-five percent of women and a jaw-dropping 68 percent of single women voted for the president this round. Feminist and reproductive-rights groups especially campaigned hard, not just to reward him for some significant wins for women in office but because they widely believed that he could do even more in a second term, especially with 18 congressional seats swapping from anti- or mixed-choice to pro-choice.

In other words, feminist-leaning women helped usher in Obama’s victory, and now they’re wondering how he intends to show his gratitude.

Even though most of 2012 was a lovefest between feminists and the Obama administration, the administration came under plenty of fire from activists who felt he was often too quick to compromise. Some feminist organizations, like the National Organization for Women, denounced the president for signing an executive order barring insurance plans on health-care exchanges from covering abortion, even though a handful of anti-abortion Democrats were determined to destroy health-care reform if they didn’t get this concession.

More troubling was that, in late 2011, the administration took away a victory that feminists thought was in the bag. For years, anti-choicers from the Bush administration had killed applications to make Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, available to all customers over the counter, even though the makers had repeatedly demonstrated that their product met all the safety standards required. The debate centered around giving access to minors. Bush-appointed FDA officials voiced concerns that Plan B on shelves would encourage teenage girls to have sex, and even, in the words of one official, that the drug would “lead adolescents to form sex-based cults around the use of Plan B.”

In 2011, the scientific arguments in favor won out, and the Food and Drug Administration prepared to grant Plan B over-the-counter status. But in a historically unprecedented move, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA, requiring Plan B to stay behind pharmacy counters, where only those 17 and older can buy it without a prescription if they show identification.

Despite Obama’s comments defending the decision, in which he claimed “common sense” holds that Plan B shouldn’t be sold “alongside bubble gum or batteries,” the move was widely perceived as shameless political pandering. Prior to this, the president had defended the reproductive rights of minors, opposing parental-notification laws for abortion and arguing for comprehensive sex education. By stating that girls should not be “punished with a baby” for having sex, he showed he was not just pro-choice but understood the right-wing obsession with sin and punishment, which is what drives conservative opposition to expanded reproductive health-care access.

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