Birth-control debates increase abortions

Abortion providers should be sending fat juicy checks to the Bush administration. You know, for keeping demand high.

There’s a paradox: A purported “pro-life” administration that won’t take real steps to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.

Take, for example, the Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision to delay approving sales of over-the-counter emergency contraception last week. It’s estimated that the drug known as Plan B, if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, could prevent 2 million unintended pregnancies and an estimated 800,000 abortions.

The drug’s safety isn’t in question. Plan B, not to be confused with RU-486 (the abortion pill), is a concentrated dose of the same stuff that’s in birth-control pills. It was approved for sale via prescription in 1999. In 2003, two expert advisory committees voted in favor of over-the-counter sales. Their decision was overridden by those with a conservative religious agenda. The concern was that girls younger than 17 might get a hold of the stuff and then wouldn’t have to spend their eighth grade year rightfully paying for their sins, wandering pregnant around middle school.

Excuse me if I sound angry. Trust me, I’m not the only one who thinks a 16-year-old girl—even one who’s taken an abstinence pledge—should have access to birth-control pills, condoms and emergency contraception.

“Out of all the people who need it the most, [teens] do,” said Alison Gaulden, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. “Let’s give them credit for being sexually responsible when they realize they might have had unprotected intercourse.”

And for women over 17?

“Delaying [approval] for adult women is ludicrous,” Gaulden said.

The seeming plan to increase the number of abortions in the United States begins with an insistence that young people should not be taught about birth control.

“Good girls keep their legs crossed,” they say, then sit back while our babies absorb a media diet rich in Sex in the City. “Condoms don’t always work, so just say no.”

Like teens don’t know when you’re trying to scare them through half-truths. Just look at the failure of the ever-popular DARE (Drug & Alcohol Resistance Education) program in keeping our kids off drugs.

The average woman, who wants about two kids, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, will spend three decades of her life using contraception. What if her contraceptive plan falls through one night, after a bit of eggnog at the Christmas party, and she and hubby forget their vow of abstinence and/or their spermicide-filled diaphragm? Wouldn’t emergency contraception be handy the morning after that fun night?

Women don’t have abortions for kicks and giggles. They are driven to the choice for lack of other options. As our nation etches away at support systems (like help with food and housing) for poor families, women are faced with the ugly “choice” of abortion or poverty. I’ve actually had discussions with right-wingers who think poor couples shouldn’t have children—but they shouldn’t have abortions, either, or have easy access to affordable birth control.

So only the affluent should have sex? That sure takes the fun out of poverty.

Gaulden suggests that there are three things women interested in reproductive freedom can do.

One, get a pre-prescription or visit Planned Parenthood’s Reno office for the morning-after pill and keep it in your medicine cabinet, just in case.

Two, call and write your legislators. Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign claim to be pro-life, so they ought to be amenable to a plan to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.

Three, says Gaulden, “Vote to change the administration that encourages this kind of thing.”