Sneering at Parents, Hiding Behind 'Science': The Emergency Contraception Controversy

  • Albert Mohler President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Updated May 15, 2013
Sneering at Parents, Hiding Behind 'Science': The Emergency Contraception Controversy

Looking for evidence that our society is losing its mind? Just look at the controversy over so-called “emergency contraceptives” and a federal judge’s effort to make these drugs available, over the counter, to girls of any age.

Last month, Judge Edward Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York handed down an order forcing the Food and Drug Administration to make emergency contraceptives, sometimes called the “morning-after pill,” available without a doctor’s prescription or parental permission to girls without any restriction on age.

Judge Korman’s order would open the door for girls as young as 10 or 11 to obtain the morning-after pill without any involvement by either a doctor or a parent. That same girl, of course, could not be given an aspirin in a school clinic without parental permission, much less a simple antibiotic like penicillin. Nevertheless, this federal judge ruled that girls and women of any age must be allowed over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives.

The Obama administration had previously set the age for access to the morning-after pill, or Plan B, at age 17. That was not good enough for Judge Korman, nor for the abortion rights and feminist groups clamoring for any age restriction to be removed. On April 30, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the age for unrestricted access to Plan B would be lowered to 15. This move, shocking enough to most parents, was not acceptable to the groups demanding an end to all age restrictions.

In 2011, speaking in defense of the policy then limiting unrestricted sales of Plan B to those 17 and older, President Barack Obama had said that Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had acted rightly: “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.”

The president noted that he believed that most parents would not want the age of availability lowered, defending the policy in light of the fact that he is also father to two young daughters. Now, President Obama says that age 15 is the appropriate policy marker, once again defending the FDA and Secretary Sebelius.

In effect, the Obama administration is attempting to find some middle ground between Judge Korman’s decision and an inevitable backlash from the nation’s parents. To its credit, the administration announced May 1 that it will appeal Judge Korman’s ruling.

Back in 2011, feminist groups accused President Obama of playing politics with the policy, trying to avoid a head-on collision with an issue that would alienate and anger the public — especially parents. Nevertheless, millions of parents were already concerned about the availability of Plan B to minors age 17, much less age 15.

The language used by those demanding the removal of all age restrictions is incredibly revealing. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that had filed the lawsuit before Judge Korman, said: “We will continue our battle in court to remove these arbitrary restrictions on emergency contraception for all women.”

Now, wait just a minute. Females under age 15 are “women”? The moral insanity of this position is made clear the moment you try to make that argument out loud. Females age 14 and under (indeed, until reaching age 18) are properly and sanely referred to as girls — not women. Calling them women would only make sense in a propaganda effort to make the public forget who we are talking about here. Furthermore, the use of this language would only make sense to people whose entire moral worldview seems to come down to nothing more than “a woman’s right to choose.”

Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post saw through the smokescreen. “They lost me on the word women,” she wrote. Parker pointed to the argument “that any interference with the over-the-counter sale of Plan B to any female of any age is blocking a woman’s right to self-determination.” She retorted: “Fifteen-year-olds, where the Obama administration wants to set the limit, are girls, not women.”

Public policy, she added, “should be aimed at involving, rather than marginalizing, parents.”

But, marginalizing parents is one of the major aims of those who would educate our teenagers and children about sex, sexuality, and abortion. On May 8, Newsday reported that New York City public health officials are releasing a smartphone app for teenagers that will help them “locate free clinics that can answer questions about sex, prescribe birth control, test for sexually transmitted diseases, or even provide an abortion.”

The app, tested earlier in the spring and released to the public on May 7, “is expressly intended to let teenagers get information about reproductive health services confidentially, without having to go through an adult.”

On its welcome screen, the app declares: “Teens in NYC have the right to sexual health services without getting permission from parents, girlfriend/boyfriends or anyone else.”

These “health authorities” are explicitly and proudly undermining parental authority and the rights of parents to be involved in the most important issues faced by their teenagers.

But, keep in mind that the new sexual revolutionaries see parents as repressive factors to be removed and marginalized so that the nation’s adolescents can be fully liberated to experiment with sex.

There is yet another very revealing dimension of this controversy, and it has to do with how many in the media are hiding behind science in making their argument for sexual revolution.

The editorial board of The New York Times is Exhibit A of this pattern. On May 3 the paper ran a lead editorial entitled “Putting Politics Ahead of Science.” The editors condemned the Obama administration’s decision to lower the age only to 15, stating that the administration had rejected science. It was, they argued, “interference with science that sparked Judge Korman’s ruling in the first place.”

The “science” to which the editors refer is the claim made by researchers that girls as young as 10 or 11 can take Plan B responsibly and safely. This involves the claim, we should note, that a girl so young can understand how to take such a powerful drug, how not to take it too often, and how to get help if any complication should arise. Note also that no one seems to be willing to make such an argument about other medications.

As if they had not already argued about science beyond the limits of reason, the editors made this astounding claim: “The administration’s continued stubbornness may please some conservative groups critical of the president. But it will hurt girls and women and is bound to undermine Mr. Obama’s credibility when he calls for principled, evidence-based policy-making on other issues, like global warming.”

That’s right. The editors of The New York Times are now warning the president of the United States that his refusal to make Plan B available to girls age 14 and under is going to undermine his credibility when making arguments about global warming. Can you imagine the clamor in the White House Press Room when President Obama makes an argument for some policy related to climate change, only to have a reporter challenge him because 14-year-olds cannot get over-the-counter access to Plan B?

Not to be outdone, the editors of The Washington Post declared that lowering the age of access from 17 to 15 was a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, “it still leaves the FDA with a position inconsistent with the judgment of its scientific experts, who recommended unrestricted access. The Obama administration’s unprecedented decision to override those experts, Judge Korman wrote, was ‘arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.’”

Once again, an argument about national policy on the availability of emergency contraceptives to young girls is absurdly reduced to the judgment of “scientific experts.” All moral concern and all respect for the rights and responsibilities of parents is thrown out the door. The same people who brought us “safe sex” are now trying to bring us “safe” emergency contraception for young girls.

The sexual revolutionaries now driving the cultural momentum in this society sneer at parents and hide behind misplaced arguments about “science.” The real emergency in the debate over emergency contraception for young girls is moral, not scientific.

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Publication date: May 9, 2013