“Freedom for All”
“Freedom for All”
With significant improvements in the medical world, many new drugs and technologies have come under fire. Our nation is consumed and fueled by its desire for efficiency, convenience, and dependability. Sometimes we, as a nation, become greedy and irresponsible with our technologies and forget our limits. Despite this, citizens must be responsible for themselves and held accountable for their choices as well as be given control over their lives. The government cannot and should not mollycoddle citizens just in case they are not trustworthy. Each person needs to make their own choices and be allowed to live their lives. The battle over the morning after pill is a prime example of how the government and some of this nation’s people do not trust women in this country. As the FDA is being pressured to make the morning after pill available over the counter, a struggle has arisen concerning the possible consequences and benefits of doing so.
The morning after pill, also known as Plan B or MAP, is a drug prescribed to women within 72 hours of having unprotected sex in order to reduce the risk of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. Although this high dosage of a daily oral contraceptive allows women to have control over their lives and their bodies, to not be punished for a sexual mistake or misjudgment, and to avoid future abortions of unwanted babies, it is only available through prescription—therefore limiting a women’s autonomy. Currently, only seven states distribute the morning after pill without a prescription. In states that do require a prescription, doctors may be unavailable and, in turn, unable to write prescriptions. There have been reported instances of doctors refusing to write prescriptions for Plan B because it is against their morals. This refusal severely limits accessibility for women in need of this emergency drug. Similarly, even if a woman has a prescription a pharmacist may refuse to fill the prescription due to moral objections. Many women may be left stranded because of another’s beliefs.
Making the morning after pill available only through prescription shortens the time a woman has to access the pill. While these concrete issues are strong arguments of supporters, one of the strongest is that of trust. This nation needs to trust its citizens, including its women. There have been many gains toward women’s equality; however, this nation still doubts women’s capabilities and limits their access to the morning after pill. I believe that the morning after pill should be sold over the counter with age restrictions to ensure safe usage, because requiring a prescription for accessing the morning after pill puts unnecessary burdens and limits on the freedom of women, pharmacists, and doctors.
Insisting that the morning after pill be kept behind counters only puts restrictions on women’s lives. In the article “Morning-After Pill Shouldn’t Be On Shelves,” Shaunti Feldhahn writes about how making the morning after pill available over the counter endangers the women of this country. One of the first things she points out is that the morning after pill is an extremely high dose of a regular daily contraceptive. Feldhahn also asserts that it is not proven to be safe and may have negative long-term effects on a women’s health.
Not only does Feldhahn believe that the morning after pill may have negative long-term effects, but she also claims that it would lead to a sexually transmitted disease epidemic. To support her argument, Feldhahn explains that since Great Britain made Plan B available over the counter the country has been suffering from an STD epidemic. She asserts that younger and younger girls are engaging in sexual activities and being infected with STD’s. Feldhahn warns us that the fate of the UK may be ours if we make the morning after pill easily available to everyone. Not only does she warn of young women engaging in dangerous activities, she also argues “that many women were confused about the strict process required to administer it” (Feldhahn).
While there are grounds for caution when making this drug so accessible, Feldhahn’s domino effect of making Plan B available over the counter discredits every woman in the United States. The only way for a nation to progress is to not only take risks, but to have trust in its citizens. It is not logical, nor is it fair, to assume the fate of Great Britain will be the fate of the United States. While the drug should not be available to any thirteen-year-old girl, I do not believe it should be withheld from everyone. Educational programs and alternative activities should be implemented to give young girls something to do rather than have sex. There are those who will participate in sexual activities regardless of the options, but society should not penalize all women for the actions of a few. Nevertheless, there should be age restrictions on purchasing the morning after pill if it is made available over the counter.
Allowing women to have control over the morning after pill gives them autonomy. Women not only need to be in control of their lives, but also deserve to be in control of their bodies. In The Daily Campus, Laura Alix says that those who oppose making the morning after pill available over the counter have a “fear of sexuality, particularly female sexuality.” By not accepting that women have sexual and reproductive freedom, those who oppose Plan B accessibility deny women autonomy in this country. Assuming women will be irresponsible with their own bodies is ridiculous. Why would a woman intentionally destroy her body this way? As a whole, this nation needs to work on trusting its women. For the longest time women were not trusted enough to hold jobs, to work for the government, or even to vote. Now they are not even trusted to make sensible choices about their own bodies. While there have been enormous improvements in women’s equality this century, we still have much work if this country does not believe women can even care for themselves. If we allow women to have access to the morning after pill “we are saying we trust them to make important decisions about their lives, bodies and health, and such trust is fundamental to the success of families and Americans everywhere” (Alix).
Not only would making the morning after pill available over the counter free women from having their lives dictated by others, but it would also free pharmacists from thee unnecessary burden of compromising their morals and values. As of today, pharmacists must fill morning after pill prescriptions regardless of their moral beliefs or values. If they are not required to fill these prescriptions, the woman who wanted the prescription is captive to the pharmacist’s morals. An article in Scientific American, “Fill This Prescription,” discusses the issue of women across this country being “held hostage” by their pharmacists’ values and consequently denied access to Plan B. Some pharmacists see the morning after pill as a form of abortion and refuse to place that upon their conscience. If the morning after pill is not made available over the counter, where will the moral opposition to certain medicines stop? “Could one who disapproves of homosexuality refuse antiretrovirals to an HIV-positive gay man? If suffering is good for the soul, can one refuse to give out pain medication?” (Fill this Prescription). While it is unlikely anyone would say those drugs should be available over the counter because of possible moral objections to distribute them, these things should be taken into account when debating whether the morning after pill should be made available over the counter. As citizens in this country possessing personal and reproductive freedom, women should have access to drugs they need in order to lead the lives that they want. This country is based on freedom. Just because a woman supports the morning after pill does not mean it should be imposed upon a pharmacist by requiring a prescription to be filled, nor should pharmacists who object to the morning after pill be able to impose their beliefs on women by refusing to fill prescriptions for Plan B.
I am not saying it should be a free for all when it comes to the morning after pill; I am simply saying that allowing the morning after pill to be available over the counter opens the door to freedom and autonomy for everyone involved. There should be some restrictions on age and accessibility, such as putting the morning after pill behind the counter, in the same way that cigarettes are only available to people of legal age. There must also be access to information regarding Plan B as well as regarding sexually transmitted diseases. If, as Feldhahn asserts, administering the morning after pill is a complex task, access to clear instructions and possible hazards is crucial. In order to avoid a STD epidemic we need to educate the entire population of this country. By giving the public information, rather than restricting their freedom, society will improve. This is not just a debate over one medication, but also one over sexual freedom. Generally, our society tends to be hypersexualized, because of this STD’s are on a rampage. Sexually transmitted diseases, however, cannot be blamed on the availability of contraceptives. STD’s are prevalent because of irresponsible choices and a lack of understanding the possible consequences of unprotected sex. In order to ease this STD increase, there needs to be readily available information about the consequences of sexual choices. Regardless, it is not the government’s place to tell women that they are incapable of handling the morning after pill. The key to improvement is not punishment but education. This nation should not punish its women for the irresponsibility of some, but should educate everyone and place reasonable restrictions on the availability of the morning after pill.
The fundamental part of the problem is the lack of trust this nation has as a whole. There is no way for any progress to be made if citizens are not trusted. On paper, our government proclaims its respect for differences and equality for all; in practice, that is not the case. If woman are denied total access to the morning after pill on the assumption they will be irresponsible with it, they are not respected, free, or trusted in this nation. Not only do women deserve freedom of choice, but so do those involved in the process of distributing the morning after pill. Pharmacists are forced to compromise their morals and distribute a drug they may oppose. To alleviate this tension the morning after pill should be made available over the counter with certain restrictions. This would be a step toward true equality for all because it would prove this country’s women are trusted to be responsible and sensible with their own bodies as well as allow pharmacists to be free to hold their morals and values without compromising them.
Alix, Laura. “Women Need Morning-After Pill.” The Daily Campus Online 3 Oct. 2005. 17 Oct. 2005 <http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=9069922f00fdf0>.
Feldhahn, Shaunti. “Morning-After Pill Shouldn’t Be On Shelves.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Online 11 Feb. 2004. 24 Oct. 2005 <http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/0204a/11morning.html>.
“Fill This Prescription.” The Scientific American Online Oct. 2005. 24 Oct. 2005 <http://web22.epnet.com/citation.asp?tb=1&_ug=sid+9E8FC027%2D>.