Anti-Plan B-ers Shoot Themselves in the Foot

Kathleen Reeves

The real divide in the debate over EC is between those who support the well-being of teenage girls, and those who pursue an anti-choice and anti-contraception agenda so inflexible that it hinders its own aims.

The Baptist Press half-heartedly argues against the extension of Plan B’s over-the-counter status to 17-year-olds. After reminding us that Plan B causes abortions and making groundless arguments about ease and frequency of use of the drug, the article concludes, surprisingly, with the FDA’s original finding: that the drug is just as safe for 17-year-olds as it is for 18-year-olds. 

The effect of these facts is to undermine the Baptist Press’s entire argument and to reveal the real divide in this debate: those who support the well-being of teenage girls, and those who pursue an anti-choice and anti-contraception agenda so inflexible that it hinders its own aims. Opponents of Plan B claim that the drug causes abortion. The drug does one of three things: it inhibits ovulation, or it prevents an egg from being fertilized, or it prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The third way of working is most offensive to the drug’s opponents; though the fertilized egg is not yet implanted, and thus not an embryo, some people still consider it a living thing. 

Those who believe that life begins at fertilization won’t budge on this. But by slinging around the phrase “abortion-causing,” they’ve helped create great misunderstanding of Plan B among people who don’t share their definition of when life begins. People often confuse Plan B with RU-486, which causes chemical abortion.

Perhaps more significantly, anti-Plan B-ers are neglecting their purported aim of preventing abortions. Their thinking is that an abortion is an abortion: that preventing fertilization is just as reprehensible as aborting a fetus. But I find it hard to believe that they have no sense of degree—that a not-yet-fetus should be defended at the cost of a weeks-old fetus. Steven Waldman gets into this in a piece which argues that the focus of the abortion debate should be timing. While I don’t agree with all his points, he’s undoubtedly right in that we’ll never meet each other on the question of when life begins. It’s more likely that many of us can agree that Plan B—whether you think it prevents pregnancy or "causes abortion"—is preferable to the abortion of a fetus. 

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This is, after all, why Plan B was developed in the first place. Let’s not forget that demand for drugs comes from the ground up. Women wanted an option before abortion. They want to prevent abortions. So why are some pro-lifers so hostile to Plan B? Why are they shooting themselves in the foot?

Their purported arguments can be dispensed with quickly. They appeal to the parent-child relationship. One particularly clumsy argument claims that if high school girls can’t get aspirin from a school nurse without parental permission, then they shouldn’t be allowed access to Plan B. But of course, Plan B is not being dispensed by a school nurse—it’s sold in pharmacies, where girls of any age have long been allowed to buy aspirin and far more dangerous substances without parental consent. Let’s not forget that 17-year-old girls can buy cigarettes in these same pharmacies.

Wendy Wright reverts to her time-worn argument for “women’s health.” She turns reality on its head by calling the Judge Korman’s March order (to grant access to 17-year-olds) and the Obama administration’s acceptance of the order “political,” when Korman was undoing a blatantly political, and scientifically irresponsible, maneuver by the FDA in 2004 Then she claims that we’re all going to start using Plan B as birth control: 

"Pregnancy counselors report that women are relying on Plan B as a regular form of birth control because it is easy to get," she said. "They are not aware that it is less effective than other methods of birth control and that it has not been tested to determine the effects of using it multiple times."

While a “pregnancy counselor” is, in theory, a wonderful idea, it’s code for an organization that uses intimidation and false data to prevent a woman from having an abortion, regardless of her situation or beliefs. These pregnancy counselors are committed to manipulation and distortion to further the anti-choice agenda. Even if you didn’t know that, could you possibly believe that women would use Plan B as their primary form of contraception? The cost alone, about 40 dollars, is prohibitive, and even it if came down in price—and let’s hope it does—there is no way it could ever compete with condoms or birth control pills as an economically feasible method. More importantly, it’s hard on your body. It’s not easy to incorporate into your life, day after day. With easier, cheaper, more comfortable methods of birth control available, there’s no reason any woman would “rely on” Plan B. 

The title of the Baptist Press’s article is “Plan B Decision Violates Parent-Child Relationship,” but the article fails, finally, to make any convincing argument against giving Plan B access to 17-year-olds. What is does show is that the age-based denial of Plan B for the past five years violates reason and medical wisdom. And it reminds me that we’re still neglecting those under 17 (as this doctor points out in the New Haven Register). Younger teenagers need more help, not less, in preventing unplanned pregnancies.

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Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.