Options: Plan B
Every other Thursday, after I’ve posted here, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Free for another 14 days. Then the worrying begins. What will I post on next? There is no shortage of topics. My white board is crowded with notes I’ve jotted down … RSVP Nazi, current (captive?) princesses, tadaima, stewardship and pre vs post millennialism, This I Believe, dancing and the priesthood, magic’s in the makeup. However, more often than not, more pressing topics will intrude. This is one of those weeks.
I love having options. As a peer counselor in high school, part of my responsibility was to help my peers come up with a list of options, and discuss probable outcomes and how they felt about them. Our whole first semester we practiced on each other, holding group discussions with our chairs forming a haphazard circle, building a framework of trust that allowed us to share some of our deepest concerns and beliefs, seeing how our biases could impede discussion, and learning to work past our personal biases to encourage therapeutic discussion. The second semester a few of us started meeting with students (self and teacher referred). The whole year was an intoxicating and grounding experience. Intoxicating because listing my options made me feel so incredibly powerful and free. Grounding because I had to consider all the implications of each option, choose a course of action, and be responsible for the outcome.
Aside: Mrs. H, who was an English teacher when she wasn’t leading our group, is the first woman in my life that I can point to as a feminist mentor. We never discussed feminism explicitly, but she had such a wonderful mix of straightforwardness, intelligence, compassion and liberality that I can’t help but think of her as a major part of my feminist foundation.
Anyway, back to options. Last week the FDA approved the over the counter sale of Plan B to women over the age of 18. It’s been a long time coming … with fighting between the scientific and feminist communities on one hand, and political conservatives on the other. Even at this time, neither side is perfectly happy, but I believe that the current state of affairs is a good compromise.
I think it’s a positive development that Plan B is readily available to adult women. Opponents worry that Plan B will become a substitute for other types of birth control (ie: the pill), that it is a form of abortion, and that it will promote teen promiscuity. However, given the comparative cost of Plan B ($20-40/course, as in each time one has sex) vs the pill ($10-45/month, for all the sex you can have in a month), it is doubtful that Plan B would replace conventional BC. As to the abortion-esque arguments, Plan B prevents pregnancy by several mechanisms; primarily by preventing ovulation, but also by preventing fertilization of the egg, and by possibly preventing implantation in the womb. It is important to note that Plan B has no effect on an implanted zygote. To my mind, this does not constitute abortion. As to the promiscuity of teens, I don’t have a satisfactorily clear-cut answer. That teens are generally becoming more promiscuous, is a fact. That we need to teach them more about the consequences of sexual activity, both physical, emotional and spiritual, is also a fact. However, having Plan B available OTC, from a pharmacist, and subject to age restrictions does not seem to advance teen promiscuity more than concerned, involved and loving parents can counteract it.
Personally, I am against abortion. I also believe that most members would not personally choose to have an abortion or use Plan B. However, I believe that it is important to have these options legally available to those who would choose them, in order for the expression of agency, and especially for those rare cases in which use may be deemed appropriate by the Brethren.
However, as much as I am glad that Plan B is now available OTC, I am not without worries. I worry that women will now have even less motivation to report acquaintance rape, and that victims will not seek medical or psychological help if the danger of unwanted pregnancy is removed. I’m also concerned with the report that men will be able to buy Plan B for their partners, and that this will encourage sexual predation. Even now, I’m unsure of what can be done about these concerns, and would love to hear any solutions.
In the end, I do support the sale of Plan B as currently stated. It is only in a society where we are allowed to make mistakes that we can develop a personal sense of morality. I worry that with all the activity to curtail women’s reproductive rights, the attention to the individual’s ethical growth is sacrificed. Attempting to compel others to conform to my set of ethics is about as fruitful as giving someone the proverbial fish. It does nothing to help them become independent thinkers who can navigate the moral and ethical difficulties that are inherent and essential to this mortal existence. And even though it’s been more years than I care to count since I was a peer counselor, helping others to understand their options and outcomes, and teaching them to thoughtfully choose their course of action is still the most effective way I can help others.