Why little girls need Plan B

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You may have heard that the FDA recently finished studying Plan B, and concluded it was safe and effective even for girls under the age of 17. That means the FDA found that they understood how to take the medication.

So Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled that on the basis that she didn’t think they would know how to swallow a pill. Because she hadn’t put months of rigorous scientific study into it, like the FDA had, but clearly she knew better. And Obama is backing her up. I give up, Obama. I’ve defended you on taxes and other issues, and saluted you for the co-pay-free birth control coverage move, but now I give up. This is unacceptable.

I’m going to join Melissa McEwan in pointing out what is obvious to us, but may sound far-fetched to nice people who don’t rape their kids, but: people rape their kids. People rape other people’s kids. Not every child has a supportive adult to go to with tough decisions like “What to do when Daddy has gotten you pregnant at age 11.” But it happens. And you know what? We don’t do a lot about it.

Obama Administration, since you obviously don’t know much about this topic, here’s a very helpful link:

Knowing my perpetrator would be protected by family members (and probably society), I felt defeated in the midst of the ongoing battle. He repeatedly assured me that I’d be blamed. For decades the words, “It’ll be all your fault,” haunted me.

And this, which really spells out the situation:

 1.      60% of teens who become pregnant were sexually abused as children (Briere, 1989)

2.      95% of teen prostitutes were sexually abused (Jennings, 2001)

3.      32% of convicted killers in the U.S. were sexually abused as children (Blake in Jennings, 2001)

4.      The chances of being caught for a sexual offense (of all kinds – exhibitionism, voyeurism, adult rape and child molestation) are 3%! (Anna Salter, PhD, 2003)

Since only 1 out of 10 child sexual abuse victims in the United States speak out and tell of the crimes against them, I can’t help but wonder how many thousands of us are still out there shrouded in silence, too afraid to speak.

Something else to consider: “Incest is common and happens in every community. An estimated 77% of reported sexual abusers are parents (57% of the total being natural parents), 16% are other relatives, and 6% are non-related. In addition, males are reported to be the abusers in 60 to 95% of cases. (Thoringer, School Psychology Review, 17 (4):614-636)”.

What’s the Department of Health and Human Services doing about this, Ms. Sebelius? Leaving it up to the FBI? Hmm, I thought as much. It’s obviously very much a Health and Human Services issue if it’s causing (directly or indirectly) unwanted pregnancies, which tend to have a higher infant mortality rate or can lead to botched illegal-style abortions (since getting a legal abortion is becoming harder, nor easier). It’s a Health and Human Services issue, Ms. Sebelius. Why aren’t you doing anything about it?

Oh, right – you are. You’re ensuring that raped young girls will have no recourse against pregnancy. You’re ensuring that, should a pregnancy compound the violation they’ve already survived, young girls will have no recourse but to become young mothers. Good heavens, do you think a girl too silly to take a pill is ready for motherhood?

No, I bet you don’t. I bet you live in some dream world where you the Secretary of Health and Human Services doesn’t need to know the low-down on child molestation and how it contributes to teen pregnancy. I wish I could live in that world with you, but sadly, I’m not ignorant enough to be the secretary of Health and Human Services.

Comments

  1. Shaun says

    FFS, aspirin can cause permanent damage in children, but that’s available over the counter and you don’t need to be 17 to get it. It’s only when something is a sexual health/women’s health issue that it becomes controversial.

    The fear that 11-year-olds could be forced to take this and suffer damage from high levels of hormones is ridiculous given their presumably-adult abusers will be perfectly able to buy this themselves, you’ve only stripped power from girls under 17 who won’t be able to purchase it themselves, not anyone else.

    But you know, whatever it takes to appease the Republicans, it’s not like they’re going to attack anything you do anyway.

  2. Malin says

    Another blog that I read that is written by a sex educator brought up this issue as well. She asks the question “could this make sense (although it’s so mind-blowingly dumb)?” The blog post is here: http://enagoski.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/could-the-emergency-contraception-decision-make-sense/ for those interested. But the gist of the argument she makes was that it was a politically strategic decision to win the election and that once he’s in office again he could just repeal it.

    I know, it’s a bunch of speculation, and it doesn’t really justify it anyhow. I’m not sure I buy it myself. I don’t live in the US, but I was wondering what other people thought. Given the current political climate which is so divisive, so hostile to anyone who isn’t the 1% it seems very, very hard to create humane politics. Even when you want to.

  3. SunlessNick says

    Even in cases where the girl hasn’t been raped by a family member, if she’s unwilling to tell her family about a situation like pregnancy, then making medical help contingent on telling them will in too many cases make her forgo the help rather than take what she obviously perceives as a risk.

  4. says

    Malin,

    That’s what I’ve been arguing all this time – that Obama is dealing with such remarkable obstinacy (I honestly don’t recall anything *quite* as impossible as this Congress during my lifetime, in the US) that he must be cut some slack for getting *anything* done. But in this case, he talked about his own daughters to invoke that it was “common sense” what Sebelius did.

    The thing is, the fact that this FDA ruling worries parents means a lot of parents are doing a very poor job of parenting. The way you get young girls using Plan B without their parents’ awareness goes to what SunlessNick says: they don’t trust their parents with the big stuff, probably because their parents have always shied away from talking to them about the big stuff because it’s Eww Icky! and apparently some people think diapers will be the most icky part of parenting.

    But nope. I talk to parents who can’t even tell their kids about periods, and hope the schools will do it instead, and it’s like, maybe if you’re that easily distressed, having kids isn’t really your thing? Parents have GOT to warn their kids about molestation, about sexual peer pressure, about birth control, about date rape. If you don’t tell them these things, then you’re like a doctor who just can’t bear to give people scary diagnoses and instead just lets them die and thinks, “Whew, dodged that bullet!” at the funeral.

  5. Sabrina says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    You see, even as a not-US citizen that’s why I find Obama so frustrating as a president. I know he has to deal with a lot of shit with all the backlash against him but dammit, Obama, get your shit together and stand up against those women hating assholes that want to ruin the lives of all women – including those of your wife and your daughters! Handing out cookies to the haters won’t make them go away.

    I get the feeling that he’s hanging out with the wrong people which just adds to the frustration. I always imagine that you could actually sit down with him, talk some sense into him and he’d finally become the great president he always wanted to be. *sigh*

  6. sbg says

    Honestly, I don’t understand how this is common sense. Common sense would dictate that it’s the type of drug you do not randomly pick up to try out one day, no matter your age. It’s not like different types of allergy medications that you have to sift through to find what works. Either you need it and you know you need it, or you don’t.

    And having it readily available would be so much nicer than having to go through the rigmarole of flagging down a pharmacist, filling out paperwork, etc., etc. Been there, done that and I would have So. Much. Preferred. to pick it up with a simple flash of my ID.

  7. Nathaniel says

    Unfortunately, as Amanda Marcotte has already blogged about, this is an issue where a number of “liberal” people, particularly parents, would shit their pants over if Obama had let this go through. So he would have gotten not just from conservatives who already hate him, but also from a majority to super majority of parents.

    Can you not see the attack ads? “Obama condones little girls going behind their parents backs to have sex, and then hide the evidence. Let Obama know that you think children shouldn’t get government help in undermining their parent’s rules.”

  8. Casey says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Besides the “EW, ICKY!” part of not wanting to discuss the birds and the bees with your youngins, there’s also the possibility (fact?) that if a pre-17-yo girl DOES come forward to her parents telling them she needs Plan B they’ll slut-shame her (among many other terrible things). I mean, my mom freaked out when she spied some possible hickeys on my my (then 14-yo) sister’s neck, immediately laying into my sister for having “horrible slut-marks” all over her (keep in mind she just laughed at a guy at the local mini-mart who came in to work covered in hickeys but she flipped her shit at my sister. I guess it’s a combination of sexist double-standards and parental possession).

  9. says

    Sabrina,

    I suspect a lot of people in US politics are decent humans, but that they find item after item of bullshit that they must embrace… or get hounded out of politics. It’s like an office full of toxic people – once an institution gets heavily corrupted, no single person can go into it without becoming corrupted, or being silenced or even hounded out by the corruption.

    Nathaniel,

    That’s probably true. I’m certainly not suggesting anyone vote against him, since dear god look what the Repubs are offering up! But I’m personally done trying to defend him, that’s all I’m saying.

    Casey,

    I originally started trying to list all the ways parents can lose the trust of their kids, but the list went on forever. Yes, there’s slut-shaming, and failure to teach kids about rape and molestation, and so on – but what it all boils down to is a failure to communicate to your kids that even if they break the rules you hold most dear, you would still love them and help them deal with the aftermath. The reasons kids keep stuff from their parents are (a) fear the parents won’t love them anymore/will beat them senseless/will throw them out on the street and (b) to shield parents who seem unable to cope with parenting. It’s the parent’s job to overcome those issues in family communication, not the child’s.

  10. Firebird says

    Another thing I heard pointed out is what SBG says – the age restriction means that women who are allowed to get it are still obstructed by having to ask the pharmacist for it. I can imagine that if I needed it I would think twice about going through the process of getting it from a pharmacist, and I can also imagine places where the pharmacy staff might literally refuse access to it, because of their own personal beliefs.

  11. DM says

    Making it even more difficult to prevent teenage pregnancy while doing absolutely nothing to improve teenage sex education. Surely this will go well for us.

  12. says

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is what needed to be said. This ruling is just another in a long line of attempts to pretend that nuclear family is the solution to everything. Family values seem to mean Men’s Rights > Women’s Rights > Children’s Rights.

  13. Dina Bow says

    People use other medicines and cleaning products to get high but no one wants to sell that behind the counter. Why not just put a warning label on the pills?

  14. Alice says

    American politics regarding sexual and reproductive health are just strange to me. I live in Sweden and I’m fairly certain that almost every girl here over thirteen knows what the Swedish equivalent of Plan B is, what it does and how to use it. I really doubt American teens are somehow inherently unable to understand the same thing.

    Also, wouldn’t getting a prescription from a doctor possibly take too long for someone to still be able to use it?

  15. sbg says

    Alice,

    I don’t think it’s that people are afraid little girls won’t know and mistakenly use this; it’s that they don’t WANT little girls to be educated, because if they don’t know, then they’re not having the nasty sex which would require a woman of any age to have some control over the outcome of said sex.

    And if someone needs it for an abusive act done to them, well, they probably asked for it and don’t deserve the help.

    See?

    Yeah, I don’t either.

  16. says

    Alice,

    I’m somewhat just repeating SBG, but yes, it’s really not that anyone thinks American girls are that incompetent – they’re using that as an excuse to promote a different agenda. Which, as SBG said, seems to be based on the idea that if girls are completely ignorant about sex and everything related to it, they won’t have it, and all will be right in the world.

    In my observation and experience, girls who are realistically informed about sex tend to put it off until later, or at least until they’re very very sure they’ve found the partner/experience they want to start off with, while girls who are kept in complete ignorance are more likely to leap into the first available sexual experience without a clue, because how else can they find out anything about it? It’s often a bit of a rude shock for them to find out it’s not the consistently graceful, satisfying experience the media portrays nearly every sex act to be, but of course, they’re likely to wonder what *they* did wrong for a while before they figure out they’ve just been lied to every which way.

    And the rape issue is not an American issue – it’s a human problem. People have a natural tendency to want to distinguish themselves from hapless victims, so they *look* for ways to blame the victim – “Aha! She dressed slutty! I would never do that, therefore I cannot be raped! I knew bad things never happened to good people! She’s obviously bad!” By that logic, of course, no girl can need Plan B because she’s been raped, because if she has been raped, she must be bad, and, um, something.

    That’s why I chose to hit people over the head with a picture of a pre-teen child being raped by a grown man who has access to her – I’m sure they would still find a way to call her a “whore”, but that will be inconsistent with the conservative response to the Roman Polanski situation (shock and horror that he raped a 13 year old), and they will reveal themselves to be monstrous hypocrites whose word should never be trusted.

  17. Alice says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that rape is an American issue (or for that matter that only the US have some citizens with strange ideas about sex).

    I’m sure that you’re both right that it’s more about trying to control teenage girls and their behavior towards sex than it’s about sincerely believing that they’re not able to read the instructions on a box and swallow a pill. But it still seems really weird to me – surely it must be better for a girl who has had unprotected sex, for whatever reason, to use Plan B than to have an abortion later on (which might a painful and emotionally stressful experience, regardless of your political or moral ideas about it) or go through with an unplanned pregnancy?

    I think it’s good that you point out that some girls get pregnant because they’ve been raped and that sometimes, their parents or relatives are the ones responsible for that. It’s hard to argue against the fact that those girls need options and can’t rely on their parents. I do, however, find it sad that anyone should need to be convinced that teenagers deserve to be able to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies.

  18. says

    Alice,

    No worries, I just wanted to be clear on what was somewhat peculiar to the US and what wasn’t. :)

    Alice: surely it must be better for a girl who has had unprotected sex, for whatever reason, to use Plan B than to have an abortion later on (which might a painful and emotionally stressful experience, regardless of your political or moral ideas about it) or go through with an unplanned pregnancy?

    According to conservatives, it’s better that she have the baby and then give it up for adoption. This is based on no logical thinking at all. It’s an entirely knee-jerk reaction to the painful thought of dead babies. It ignores all the practical issues, such as that we already have loads of kids up being rejected for adoption and winding up in foster care without ever experiencing anything like a real, familial attachment.

    Once upon a time, my OB-GYN’s office was being picketed by anti-abortion protestors. As I walked past them proudly, hearing their chant of “Adoption, not abortion!” I looked at this one woman who had two children who looked exactly like her, and shouted over the din for all to hear, “Yeah, and how many kids have YOU adopted?”

    She looked stunned. I laughed and shouted to the whole crowd, “How many kids have ANY of you adopted? See? Assholes.”

    I turned away, but caught a glimpse of that first woman from the corner of my eye, and she actually had the decency to look guilty. Yeah, asshole, if you’re going to preach that adoption is the solution, you’d better fucking have adopted some kids, hadn’t you?

  19. Cloudtigress says

    Dina Bow:
    People use other medicines and cleaning products to get high but no one wants to sell that behind the counter. Why not just put a warning label on the pills?

    Don’t know how things are done where you’re at , but here (I live/work in the state of Indiana, USA), such medicines have been required to be sold behind the pharmacists’ counter, though that depends on what store you go to. A store that doesn’t have a pharmacy in it will still require you to give a birthdate to the cashier before purchasing, and only allow you to buy two per transaction. The price of combating both the meth dealers (an ingredient in some cold medicines is used in making that drug) and the teens who thing it’s safe to guzzle several bottles of cold medicine at once to get high. :/

  20. Alice says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I agree with you on the adoption point – the world certainly don’t have a lack of children in need of being adopted.

    The whole “dead babies are terrible”-explanation just seems inconsistent to me. If someone hates abortions so much, wouldn’t it be a great idea for them to try to make sure that people don’t get pregnant by mistake? For example, by providing them with contraception and educating them about how to use it?

    Is it possible that some conservatives just can’t decide if they hate sex or abortions the most? I want to understand the reasoning behind stuff like this, but that’s really the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

  21. Casey says

    Alice: The whole “dead babies are terrible”-explanation just seems inconsistent to me. If someone hates abortions so much, wouldn’t it be a great idea for them to try to make sure that people don’t get pregnant by mistake? For example, by providing them with contraception and educating them about how to use it?

    Ah but you see, the girls and women who are having sex simply SHOULDN’T have sex to begin with! They should just keep their legs closed ’til they get married. Otherwise those bitchez who have pre-marital sex (protected or not) and get pragnant should just be forced to “accept responsibility for their actions” by birthing a child they either don’t want or can’t afford (if not both) because JEEEEEEEEZUS! (also, if they know about contraception and how sex works, that means they’ll have spontaneous public orgies or something)

    At least, that’s the sort of explanation I got from an actual anti-choicer. It hurt my brain (these people operate on Troll Logic, I guess).

  22. says

    Casey,

    And don’t forget that if she’s raped, it would be better that we suspend her civil rights and use her as a machine to pump out that baby. On a similar note, you could argue that it should be perfectly legal to stalk a man down and forcibly cut out one of his kidneys if you need it in order to live. I mean, it’s not going to kill him, right? Just a little setback, but he’ll live. How humane would it be to suggest that his right to have more kidneys than he needs trumps your right to live? It is an exactly analogous argument, but you can imagine the abject horror that would meet such a proposition. It would almost be worth pushing into Congress, just to see the looks on their faces when you explained, “But, you think raped women should be forced to give birth, despite the trauma and suspension of their civil rights. Our proposition is even more noble than that, because we’re not talking about just raping people – we’re talking about a necessity for living. Have you no heart?”

    And then there’s the fact that nobody dares poll the un-aborted kids about this. It’s time to highlight an article Sunless Nick wrote for us a while back:

    http://thehathorlegacy.com/that-question-arent-you-glad-your-mother-didnt-abort-you/

  23. Amy McCabe says

    I would like to live in that world too. Hell, I would like to live in a world where abortion never happens because every child is conceived on purpose, by loving and stable parents and medicine as advanced to the point that risk to the mother is non-existent. Too bad we don’t live in that world. And this decision hurts children. End of story.

  24. says

    i bailed out of the ASSsembly of god church in part because of that revolting “purity” movement—that places ZERO accountability on boys or men—alice, not only are “good” christian women not supposed to have sex until they are married but they are not supposed to enjoy it after marriage either—i unfortunately had the rotten judgment to marry not just one but two men damaged by this kind of teaching in the church—my first marriage failed and my second is barely functioning—im trying 2 figure out how 2 help my 12-yr old avoid the same mistakes

  25. sbg says

    maggiemay,

    I remember having a conversation with one of my sisters once. Sex isn’t something we talk about too openly (I was raised by very, very Roman Catholic parents), for the record, but I was really, genuinely appalled when she said not only did she not enjoy sex all the time, but it was often painful. Worse? I asked her if she, you know, mentioned that to her husband and she just shruggged. Like it didn’t matter. o.O

    Yeah, that’s the kind of thing the super conservative want to keep on. Sex isn’t for enjoyment (unless you’re a man), it’s for procreation. Suck it up, women, and just get some babies all up in there.

  26. says

    sbg,

    I grew up with a lot of that, too, and in a heavily Protestant area where Catholics met with bigotry. I had no sisters, but older sisters of friends assured us that sex hurt, but you “got used to it” and “it wasn’t that bad” and “sometimes it almost even feels good.” I was appalled. Why, when masturbation was easy, thrilling and risk-free, would anyone ever have sex with a man if the best they could expect was “it didn’t hurt all that much”?? How could the same culture sit in judgment of women who didn’t leave men that hit them, but condemn women to experiencing sex as a painful chore? To this day, I cannot see the difference.

  27. sbg says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Granted, I have limited experience and this is way TMI, but certain positions just hurt for me. Never once did I endure it. No thanks, I’d like to have some fun too, and all it took was saying, “THIS IS NOT WORKING FOR ME, OW AND NOT A GOOD OW.” Any partner worth his/her salt will want to make sure everyone’s having a good time, no?

    I can’t imagine being in a legally binding arrangement and not feeling I could mention something big like that. I have no idea how I came out of my upbringing with the ability to talk about stuff like that and my sister apparently didn’t.

    And it’s really easy to conclude that many believe sex for fun is for guys only, in het-sex, anyway.

  28. says

    sbg: Any partner worth his/her salt will want to make sure everyone’s having a good time, no?

    It’s been my experience that most men are pretty responsive to clear feedback in all sorts of situations, including but not limited to sexual ones. But your sister is so not alone – many women feel they aren’t entitled to give men clear feedback, or say no, or expect more. And some men do feel entitled to ignore it. We really need a massive social dialog on this stuff. The sexual revolution was all “yay, we can have sex now” and that was lovely for the women who enjoyed sex, but the ones who hadn’t figured out how to make sex work for them just felt pressured or outcast.

  29. says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    we need a massive social dialog about a lot of things but i dont see that happening anytime soon, unfortunately—so much of this stuff operates at the subconscious level, thats why its so hard 2 make any headway

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