Get Real! Did My Stepmother Lie to Me About My Right to Birth Control?

Heather Corinna

While parents have the right not to pay for your birth control, they do not have the right to keep you from obtaining it yourself or using it.

Audrey asks:

I
would appreciate a little light shed on my question, it puzzles me
greatly. I asked a good while ago if I could start on Birth Control,
and my father actually wouldn’t mind, in fact, he supports it. My
stepmother, on the other hand, doesn’t seem comfortable with it.
Despite the obvious discomfort, she said she’d call her doctor and see
what she could do. Days later, she told me they won’t take anyone under
18. This confused me. I know many teenagers on Birth Control. I hope
she’s not just saying that, although it wouldn’t be the first time she
did something rather similar to that. At first I got the feeling that
she thought I would change if I was on the pill, like I was invincible
and I could never get pregnant, so I can have sex whenever I want. The
thing is, I’m not sexually active, I’m a virgin. I often get the
feeling she thinks I’m a tramp. I would NEVER think in that fashion.
So, my question to you, do you have to be a certain age to consult a
doctor about Birth Control? And although I’m only 16, would that be my
personal choice to take the pill? Or do they have a say in it until I’m
a legal adult?

Heather replies:

While
some doctors may choose not to see children or adolescents in their
practice, period — because they just don’t specialize in that group —
it sounds far more likely your stepmother was simply being dishonest
with you.

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If her doctor was someone who chose only to see adults, he or she
most certainly would have given her a reference for you to see another
doctor.

You do not have to be a certain age to talk to a doctor about
anything at all, including about contraception. You also do not have to
be a certain age to obtain methods of contraception from a doctor, and
the only place there would be age limitations would be for methods
which a doctor felt were not good choices for someone your age. For
instance, Depo-Provera isn’t always a good choice for very young women
because of bone mass concerns. IUDs often aren’t comfortable for women
who have not been pregnant before. Most doctors will not approve
permanent sterilizations for young adults. In addition, while a parent
certainly has the right and the ability not to pay for your birth
control they do not have the right to keep you from obtaining it
yourself or using it. It’s solely up to you, and in your control, as to
whether or not you acquire and use methods of contraception.

I don’t know what the overall dynamic is like in your home beyond
this situation, but it sounds to me like this is something you should
talk to your stepmother herself or your father about. If one or both of
them do not want you using birth control, you deserve a candid,
forthright discussion about why, rather than to be manipulated or lied
to. If one of them is supportive of you in this way and the other is
not, as co-parents, they need to work that out amongst themselves or
with you like grownups. It seems like it might also be helpful to
address those ideas you think she has. Ideally, she’d have been the
adult here and done that with you, but you’re becoming an adult, too,
and can go ahead and take the wheel of that discussion if she has not.

If you do want to call this out, what I’d suggest is just asking for
a family meeting, or for time to talk to whichever parent you want to
talk to.

I’d calmly explain that you’re aware that teens do not have to be 18
to obtain birth control, and that you feel you may have been deceived.
I’d ask if that was the case, then ask why if your stepmother admits
she was not truthful. I’d also state that you feel like you have a
right to be communicated with honestly, and that if one or both of them
has an objection to you using birth control, or helping you get it, you
deserve to be part of a real discussion about that. Again, be calm, and
be an active listener. The high ground here is yours, so keep it. Even
though either of them does have the right to prefer not being part of
getting you contraception, you still deserve the respect of just being
told that outright, and you still have the right to obtain it on your
own and know that’s something you’ll need to do for yourself if one or
both of them doesn’t want to help or support you in it. You might find
that this link
for parents about talking to teens in regard to contraception is
helpful for you, or may even be something you want to print out for
your family.

If that’s not a conversation you want to have, or you don’t want to
confront one or both of them on this, know that you can go see a sexual
healthcare provider on your own. I don’t know what country you’re in,
but in most areas, you can do that by either scheduling a visit with
your family doctor yourself (you don’t specifically need a gynecologist
for this: most general physicians provide pelvic exams, STI testing and
prescribe contraception), or by visiting a general or sexual healthcare
clinic, like Planned Parenthood here in the U.S. or Canada, or through
independent public clinics. If you’re not sure what’s available in your
area, you can use your local phone directory to find out, or ask a
friend who she sees for her birth control and sexual healthcare.

However you get to a healthcare provider for contraception, you may
find it handy to inform yourself about methods in advance so that you
can have some idea of which might be best for you, and know what your
questions about any method may be so you can be sure to ask them. So, have a look here for that information, and good luck in working this out.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

Commentary Contraception

Hillary Clinton Played a Critical Role in Making Emergency Contraception More Accessible

Susan Wood

Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second-chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Clinton helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

In the midst of election-year talk and debates about political controversies, we often forget examples of candidates’ past leadership. But we must not overlook the ways in which Hillary Clinton demonstrated her commitment to women’s health before she became the Democratic presidential nominee. In early 2008, I wrote the following article for Rewirewhich has been lightly edited—from my perspective as a former official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the critical role that Clinton, then a senator, had played in making the emergency contraception method Plan B available over the counter. She demanded that reproductive health benefits and the best available science drive decisions at the FDA, not politics. She challenged the Bush administration and pushed the Democratic-controlled Senate to protect the FDA’s decision making from political interference in order to help women get access to EC.

Since that time, Plan B and other emergency contraception pills have become fully over the counter with no age or ID requirements. Despite all the controversy, women at risk of unintended pregnancy finally can get timely access to another method of contraception if they need it—such as in cases of condom failure or sexual assault. By 2010, according to National Center for Health Statistics data, 11 percent of all sexually experienced women ages 15 to 44 had ever used EC, compared with only 4 percent in 2002. Indeed, nearly one-quarter of all women ages 20 to 24 had used emergency contraception by 2010.

As I stated in 2008, “All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.”

Now, there are new emergency contraceptive pills (Ella) available by prescription, women have access to insurance coverage of contraception without cost-sharing, and there is progress in making some regular contraceptive pills available over the counter, without prescription. Yet extreme calls for defunding Planned Parenthood, the costs and lack of coverage of over-the-counter EC, and refusals by some pharmacies to stock emergency contraception clearly demonstrate that politicization of science and limits to our access to contraception remain a serious problem.

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Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

Although stories about reproductive health and politicization of science have made headlines recently, stories of how these problems are solved are less often told. On August 31, 2005 I resigned my position as assistant commissioner for women’s health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because the agency was not allowed to make its decisions based on the science or in the best interests of the public’s health. While my resignation was widely covered by the media, it would have been a hollow gesture were there not leaders in Congress who stepped in and demanded more accountability from the FDA.

I have been working to improve health care for women and families in the United States for nearly 20 years. In 2000, I became the director of women’s health for the FDA. I was rather quietly doing my job when the debate began in 2003 over whether or not emergency contraception should be provided over the counter (OTC). As a scientist, I knew the facts showed that this medication, which can be used after a rape or other emergency situations, prevents an unwanted pregnancy. It does not cause an abortion, but can help prevent the need for one. But it only works if used within 72 hours, and sooner is even better. Since it is completely safe, and many women find it impossible to get a doctor’s appointment within two to three days, making emergency contraception available to women without a prescription was simply the right thing to do. As an FDA employee, I knew it should have been a routine approval within the agency.

Plan B emergency contraception is just like birth control pills—it is not the “abortion pill,” RU-486, and most people in the United States don’t think access to safe and effective contraception is controversial. Sadly, in Congress and in the White House, there are many people who do oppose birth control. And although this may surprise you, this false “controversy” not only has affected emergency contraception, but also caused the recent dramatic increase in the cost of birth control pills on college campuses, and limited family planning services across the country.  The reality is that having more options for contraception helps each of us make our own decisions in planning our families and preventing unwanted pregnancies. This is something we can all agree on.

Meanwhile, inside the walls of the FDA in 2003 and 2004, the Bush administration continued to throw roadblocks at efforts to approve emergency contraception over the counter. When this struggle became public, I was struck by the leadership that Hillary Clinton displayed. She used the tools of a U.S. senator and fought ardently to preserve the FDA’s independent scientific decision-making authority. Many other senators and congressmen agreed, but she was the one who took the lead, saying she simply wanted the FDA to be able to make decisions based on its public health mission and on the medical evidence.

When it became clear that FDA scientists would continue to be overruled for non-scientific reasons, I resigned in protest in late 2005. I was interviewed by news media for months and traveled around the country hoping that many would stand up and demand that FDA do its job properly. But, although it can help, all the media in the world can’t make Congress or a president do the right thing.

Sen. Clinton made the difference. The FDA suddenly announced it would approve emergency contraception for use without a prescription for women ages 18 and older—one day before FDA officials were to face a determined Sen. Clinton and her colleague Sen. Murray (D-WA) at a Senate hearing in 2006. No one was more surprised than I was. All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.

Sometimes these success stories get lost in the “horse-race stories” about political campaigns and the exposes of taxpayer-funded bridges to nowhere, and who said what to whom. This story of emergency contraception at the FDA is just one story of many. Sen. Clinton saw a problem that affected people’s lives. She then stood up to the challenge and worked to solve it.

The challenges we face in health care, our economy, global climate change, and issues of war and peace, need to be tackled with experience, skills and the commitment to using the best available science and evidence to make the best possible policy.  This will benefit us all.

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