Plan B and the End of Innocence

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

For one brief shining moment, I was grateful for an Obama-administration decision, appealing a judge’s insistence that Plan B be available to women of any age. Translated, for a media that is not big on pointing this out: We are talking about girls. Children.

Alas, the Obama administration has dropped its opposition to the drug’s universal availability.

These most intimate medical decisions that involve fertility, with all their medical, emotional, and, yes, moral, implications and considerations, are hard enough for adults – and now we want to let children pick up “morning after” pills alone.

Not long ago, this was but Princeton professor James Trussell’s dream, that this “fire extinguisher” of “emergency contraception” would be readily available, for those “uh-oh” moments. And now by judicial mandate and bureaucratic regulation, here we are, sending the message that whatever her age, a woman can expect nothing more of herself and the boys in her life than the use and abuse of her body. How exactly do we raise men in an environment where the implicit message is that a consequence of their behavior is but a problem to be taken care of, rather than a challenge to rise to, or even a blessing? The “problem” Plan B seeks to avoid or nix could be a great gift to an couple struggling with infertility. 

When New York City launched an experimental program in city schools late in 2012 making Plan B available to students, I talked with Anna Halpine, founder of the World Youth Alliance and CEO of the FEMM (Fertility Education and Medical Management) Foundation. At the time, she observed about this madness: 

Girls often need support in order to avoid coercive early sexual activity, and the support of parents and medical providers is critical to enabling them to make healthy decisions . . . Girls want to be loved, not just used, and being affirmed in their pursuit of education and long-term dreams is a necessary part of the empowerment of any girl. Happiness is not an illusion; there are concrete things that can be done to achieve it, and explaining that to our girls is our responsibility and obligation. As the hookup culture grows ever more pervasive, it is matched by rising rates of female depression. We need to take these indicators of our young women’s development seriously, and make sure that we provide them with clear messages that help them fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams.

And what if it was not a boy but a “man” who got that girl pregnant? How is anyone going to protect that girl when he can have his way with her and make her take care of the problem?

No matter, the National Organization for Women is exuberant. They write in a release this morning: “Women of all ages will be able to take immediate action to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.”

Women of all ages. Brilliant language if you want to continue to push the impression that someone’s trying to rob a woman of the contraceptive pills she has been conditioned to believe is the source of her freedom and power, when the real source might just happen to be her femininity. (The latter, of course, is an inexplicable, radically foreign idea.) Hasn’t this gotten a little out of control when we’re talking about “all ages”? Is there any innocence left? Don’t we want to give that gift to the children in our lives? Yes, it’s a cruel world, but we can help our children by not being party to the surrender to it. They deserve better.