We were disappointed by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to overrule the evidence-based decision reached by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove the age restriction on emergency contraception. So it didn’t really come as a surprise when President Obama voiced his support for Sebelius’ decision (watch it here).
But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Even worse was how Obama defended Sebelius’ decision – speaking as a father about his daughters. Emily Douglas from The Nation and Rebecca Traister from Salon nailed it when they wrote about Obama’s paternalism.
If President Obama and Secretary Sebelius are concerned about 11 and 12 year old girls accessing emergency contraception without fully understanding how to use it, perhaps they should consider investing in comprehensive sex education programs. Not making emergency contraception readily available, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that young girls won’t need it, it just means that when they do, they will face significant hurdles in obtaining it. And unfortunately that means, these girls may face an even bigger challenge – unintended pregnancy.
We owe it to our young people to empower them to make safe and healthy decisions regarding sex. In order to do this, they must know what their options are in case they have unprotected sex. They must know how their bodies work. They must know how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections. We hope they will know and understand the potential risks of engaging in sexual activity, but in order for that to happen, we have to be willing to talk to them about sex.
And unfortunately, what I heard when President Obama expressed his concern about his daughters accessing emergency contraception was that he isn’t able or willing to have an admittedly tough, and often awkward conversation with his daughters.
For a touch of that “common sense” that Obama voiced yesterday, I’ll just remind you that there are more dangerous medications already available over the counter, and that a woman was recently arrested for making meth *in* a Walmart.
But Obama is concerned about emergency contraception being wedged between batteries and bubblegum on pharmacy shelves?