The MOMocrats welcome this guest post, written by Kate Stewart. Cross-posted with permission from Amplify.
Disappointed doesn’t cut it anymore.
Disappointed, angry, dismayed — these are only some of the emotions I am feeling this afternoon after hearing President Obama’s poor excuse for restricting access to Plan B One Step.
I am also scared.
Scared about the health of my daughters. As the mother of two daughters, just like President Obama, I try to use “common sense” as much as possible. But, also like President Obama, I am not a doctor; I am not a scientist. I use my own judgment when it comes to things I am confident I can handle — a case of the sniffles, a little cold.
But, I also understand that it is my responsibility as a parent to know when I don’t know all the answers and it’s time to turn to experts. And that, apparently, is where the President and I disagree.
When my daughter’s pediatrician gives me medical advice, I listen. Carefully. American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine make recommendations about my daughters’ health, that matters to me. A lot. And I believe it should.
Today, President Obama has made the irresponsible – and nearly incomprehensible — decision to support HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ move to block the FDA from expanding access to Plan B One-Step emergency contraception. Whether the President’s decision was motivated by well-intentioned ignorance or political cowardice is beside the point. Either way, this move will adversely impact millions of women, particularly young women, across the country.
President Obama has decided to ignore scientific research and medical advice and has sacrificed the health of young women. And I want to know why. Why, Mr. President? Why would you reject years of research and the best scientific thinking the medical community has to offer? Why, for the first time in U.S. history, did your administration intervene to overrule the FDA’s ability to make decision about medical science?
On Monday, I was optimistic. The FDA was expected to expand the availability of Plan B One-Step, a form of back-up birth control that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if something goes wrong with regular contraception. Indeed, the FDA tried to do just that: make Plan B One-Step available to all women — without age restrictions and without needing a prescription. If either of my daughters ever needs back-up birth control, I hope I will be among the first to know and I would help them in whatever way I could. But, life is not always as we want it to be, and therefore, it is essential that young people have the access to the information and services they need to ensure their health and safety. I thought we were headed in this direction on Monday. But, my optimism suddenly turned to dismay.
Yesterday, in a shocking move, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the FDA and blocking its decision to expand access to emergency contraception. I held out a brief hope that President Obama would intervene and allow the FDA to do its job unhampered by politics, but those hopes were soon dashed as well. Today, President Obama came out in support of Secretary Sebelius’ action – and, in doing so, decided to play politics with the lives and health of young women.
To say I was shocked when listening to the President is an understatement. It’s not just that I disagree with his position, it’s that his reasoning is so hollow and unsubstantiated. This Harvard-educated legal scholar who has signed presidential directives about the importance of science-based policy suddenly sounded eerily like Rep. Michelle Bachman. He framed his reasoning “as the father of two daughters,” when my own two daughters most needed him to be acting like the President of the United States. He invoked the specter of 11 year-olds buying Plan B next to “bubble gum and batteries,” as if 11 year-olds wander into CVS to buy $50 medications every afternoon. In the end, he felt that these concerns should overweigh the best advice of every major medical organization, years of research, and the recommendations of the FDA itself. How is this different than Rep. Bachman condemning HPV vaccines because of unscientific misinformation from a woman in the grocery store?
I understand that President Obama is uncomfortable with the idea that young teens may need emergency contraception. That worries me too. Rather than deny them access to a fully safe medication that could help prevent unintended pregnancy, perhaps we should be doubling down on comprehensive sex education — and expanding access to contraception in the first place — so that fewer of our daughters ever need Plan B at all. But, for those who do, we still have a responsibility to make sure that any woman who needs emergency contraception has access to it when they need it.
As I write this my daughters are at school and I am figuring out how to get them a quick dinner before heading off to a school holiday party this evening. Of all the other things, on my to do list today as a working mom, I really did not believe I would be writing about my shock and disappointment in President Obama and, yes, my fear for my daughters’ future.
Was this part of a back-room deal, trading away the rights of all our daughters for some inside-the-beltway political ploy? Mr. President, why? I still want to know. I need something more than your current, cowardly excuses.
Mr. President, many of us were stunned by your remarks today. We need a better explanation for why you decided to sacrifice my daughters’ safety and well-being.
Kate Stewart will be joining Advocates for Youth as Executive Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs beginning in January 2012. She is a public opinion research and communications specialist who has worked with a wide-range of advocacy and non-profit organizations on communications, policy, and public affairs. Most recently, she was a partner in the research and strategic communications firm, Belden Russonello & Stewart, LLC, where she created communications and public relations strategies for clients on civil liberties, public education, reproductive health, and reproductive justice. Kate has also been an adjunct professor at American University, where she taught public communication research and served on the Governing Council of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Kate has been a member of Advocates’ Board of Directors, mostly recently serving as Board Chair. Kate received a B.A. with high honors in history from Haverford College and her M.S. in survey methodology from the University of Maryland.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Board of Directors of Advocates for Youth. -Glennia