After a District Court ruling a month ago that struck down any age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraceptives to women, the Obama administration has decided to appeal the decision. The Justice Department wants the law to prevent anyone under the age of 15 from purchasing products like Plan B, also knows as the morning-after pill. Supporters of Judge Edward Korman’s ruling claim that to prevent anybody from obtaining emergency contraception is to condemn very young people to the hardships of parenthood. Many conservative groups in opposition to the District Court’s decision are of the opinion that allowing individuals younger than age 15 to purchase such items without parental consent is a dangerous policy which will incentivize underage sex.
Prior to the District Court’s decision, only girls aged 17 or over were allowed to buy products like Plan B without the permission of a parent or guardian. In 2011, the F.D.A. was planning to change this regulation to allow for exactly what Judge Korman proscribed in his ruling. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius halted that process, citing insufficient data to prove that doing so would be safe. Her choice was criticized as putting “politics before science” by Judge Korman; perhaps the Democrats could not afford to fan the flames of conservative interest groups by supporting such a controversial measure.
Often, the ability to obtain contraception can be correlated with one’s socioeconomic status. If someone living in poverty can barely afford to buy food on a regular basis, they can not be expected to be able to afford such protection. As a result, some groups advocate for abstinence-only education. They argue that not having sex is the only way to make sure that unwanted diseases and pregnancies are avoided. While this might work in some people’s version of an ideal world, the reality is that lots of people engage in sexual activity whether they have the ability to purchase protective measures or not—it can never be completely prevented. Thus, in order to protect everyone as much as possible, contraception should be readily available to anyone who wants to buy it.
Judge Korman’s ruling extended to other versions of Plan B, but the Justice Department’s appeal will argue that he had no authority to make such an expansive ruling. Rather, the Obama administration contends that the Judge “did not have the authority to order the F.D.A. to take a specific action and should have sent the issue back to the agency for further action.” Regardless of the way this court case ends, it will have a major impact on the lives of millions of Americans—especially the most impoverished among us.
Sources: The New York Times