The issue of politics affecting a citizen’s private sex life is something that I find very intriguing. Whether it’s silly, outdated laws banning certain sexual acts – according to FOX News’ “Sexpert”, only missionary positions for residents of Washington D.C.! – or laws stating who you can and cannot marry, there is no denying that the issue of our government interfering with our sex lives has only grown more complex.
As Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, was ruled unconstitutional today (see a neutral news article from the NY Times here), I could not help but find an article I found from a blog about Sexuality and Society especially relevant. Reading the news about Prop 8, I was astounded at how many articles linked this ruling back to Obama and the election year. Most claimed that he caught a lucky break. For one thing, this would be seen as a pro-gay rights win for his administration – cue swooning liberals all over the country, myself included.
Also, the judge’s ruling was just broad enough to not define gay marriage as a right under the U.S. Constitution. As an article by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post explains, “the court today simply affirmed that you can’t take away by referendum a right to marry that citizens already enjoy under state law”, and that discrimination based on sexual orientation was unconstitutional. Nowhere in the ruling did the judge say that gay marriage was a right under the constitution, effectively giving Obama another chance to avoid coming down decisively on one side of the issue of gay marriage.
So with the complex problem of laws allowing who we can or cannot marry bouncing around in my head all day, I headed over to the Sexuality and Society blog and started browsing. A recent post displayed the Top 10 Sexual Stories of 2011, which in turn, provided me with a link to an article (found here) discussing how, exactly two months ago, Obama’s HHS Secretary overruled the FDA’s recommendation to make the Plan B pill over-the-counter. Understandably, the author of the article and most of the commenters were horrified. The FDA is supposed to be a politically neutral administration, dedicated to serving the best health and nutrition needs of our country’s citizens. After years of research, the FDA ruled that women aged 17 and younger are responsible enough to take emergency contraceptives as a non-prescription medicine – this includes research in the field from the FDA, and testimony from experts such as OBGYNs and pediatricians.
The article goes on to explain that the only reason the HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, overturned the FDA’s decision based solely on politics. In order to please the far right, Sebelius overlooked the scientific evidence and, as a consequence, made it much harder for teens to avoid unwanted pregnancies. What positive outcomes could this have? I am not entirely sure that someone who is conservative enough to not want Plan B to be OTC for women 17 and younger will now approve of Obama or vote for him because of this action by Sebelius. Or how many on-the-fence voters would not vote for Obama because of this?
I can only shake my head at Sebelius’s move. Obama’s administration, on inauguration day, promised that all their health and medicinal decisions would be based on fact, research, and science – not religion, ideology, or personal beliefs. Somehow, I just don’t think Sebelius’s decision exactly fits this pledge. According to several news articles I found, including one by USA Today, Obama stated his support of Sebelius’s decision. She defended herself by saying that she did not think girls as young as 11 would be able to understand the label, and there was no research to prove her wrong. Experts countered with asking how many 11 year-old girls are of reproductive age and would ever need Plan B. Most of these cases would be sexual abuse. Additionally, 10-15% of girls aged 15 to 17 years old who need Plan B OTC did not give consent for the sexual intercourse in question. A girl who has been sexually assaulted should not have to worry about preventing pregnancy. Unfortunately, for teens who are still on their family’s insurance and medical plans, who may not be able to drive, or know how to make their own appointments, or know how to find a doctor on their own, making plan B prescription-only will only further complicate the situation.
Policy Prescriptions, a website run by two physicians who comment on legal policies that deal with health and wellness, wrote a post about the Plan B debacle. In short, it compares limiting the sale of Plan B to limiting the sale of cold medicine, cigarettes, and condoms. The medicine, condoms, and emergency contraceptives all are used to prevent or treat a condition, while cigarettes are detrimental to one’s health and only used recreationally. Limiting access to cold medicine will not prevent a cold, and limiting access to condoms or emergency contraceptives will not prevent sexual activity. Conversely, limited access to cigarettes corresponds with a drop in smoking. You can see where Policy Prescriptions is going with this. After all, unwanted pregnancies, especially in teens, effect all of society. Don’t think so? Ask adoption centers, abortion centers, doctors and nurses and social workers who treat the teenage mothers (sometimes using your tax money), the families of the teen(s) involved, or the children themselves.
I can only question the legitimacy of Sebelius’s action, and wonder about the logical reasoning behind her decision. Where do you stand on this? I’d love to hear opinions from anyone who thinks that Sebelius made the right choice!