The President threw his support behind Kathleen Sebelius and her decision not to allow Plan B (emergency contraception, also known as the morning after pill) to be sold over-the-counter to adolescents 16 and younger. (Currently anyone 17 or older can buy Plan B).

He stated the following:

“The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect.”

And for effect, to ensure that we all knew he was speaking as father knows best as a father he added, “And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.”

The president’s statement (the first part, about safety) is mired in misinformation. Plan B (levonorgestrel), if “not used properly” has no untoward effects. Except failure to prevent a pregnancy if not taken as directed (meaning more than 5 days after the episode of unprotected sex).

Plan B does not cause cancer.

Plan B does not cause blood clots.

Plan B does not cause heart attacks.

Plan B does not cause abortion.

Plan B does not affect a fetus in any negative way.

And finally, Plan B retails for $60 for brand name and $37 for generic. Clearly in the budget for most 10 and 11 year olds. And it would not be next to the bubble gum or batteries.

Plan B either works, and ovulation is inhibited and or no pregnancy, or it doesn’t work and sadly a 15-year-old is pregnant. And it is sad when it fails to work, because there is NO SCENARIO where a 15-year-old is pregnant and it’s a good thing.

Obviously the ideal scenario is the 15-year-old telling her parents that she is thinking about becoming sexually active. That for years, around the dinner table, there have been frank and educational discussions about sex, love, lust, and contraception s she feels comfortable discussing the subject with both of her parents. And that said 15-year-old, empowered with this information, goes with her parents to the doctor for the birth control pill (or the depo provera shot) and then makes sure she knows how to put on a condom herself in case her partner does not. She knows if a boy won’t wear a condom then he does not care about her in the way that he should. This girl will probably not need a Plan B because she has an AWESOME Plan A.

However most girls don’t get frank discussions about sex. They get mixed messages and misinformation. They confuse lust and desire with love. They equate sex with acceptance. They mistake sex for partnership.

Many girls are afraid to ask their date to wear a condom for fear of implied coercion or even violence if they do bring it up.

Many girls have no knowledge of birth control, after all it’s not taught in schools and many parents don’t have the skills to discuss it at home. Or chose not to discuss it.

And many girls come from families with no resources. Many have no health insurance and many don’t have a working car to get to the free clinic. Many girls (and their parents) don’t even know that there are free community resources for birth control.

So, respectfully Mr. President, get your facts straight. Don’t delude yourself with misinformation to pander to the religious right. It makes me wonder what other facts you have wrong.

And also, Mr. President, most girls don’t have the Plan A that yours do. You should know more about the people you represent. The real people. Because many of them do need a Plan B.

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  1. Ah…but it’s an election year and the White House, along with a bunch of Senate seats, are up for reelection! The only time politicians even masquerade as representatives of their constituents is during an election year. The rest of the time is spent trying to fill the coffers for the next election cycle.

  2. Great Post Doctor, I’m saving it so in 7 years I’ll have a great talk with my girls

  3. Well said.

    Also, what always irks me is when people say things like, “as a parent…” as if there is one standard for parenting and everyone agrees when in fact the reality is far from it. Just because our president is a dad does not give him the right to impose his archaic, medieval parenting morals on me and my children.

  4. Nicely written Dr. Jen. The comment about a 10 or 11 year old accidentally buying Plan B is spot on due to the economic factors. I like to think that my daughter grew up with an awesome Plan A – but I also felt better knowing that she was educated in Plan B as well – just in case.

    1. Well, I hope that was implied in my ability to know the difference between lust/love etc and ability to talk with mom and/or dad.. Studies show that when kids can speak with their parents about sex, even if parents disagree with child’s choices, a kid is less likely to be sexually active.

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