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50 Reasons HHS Should Reverse its Decision on Emergency Contraception

Written by Soraya Chemaly for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Here is a $12 billion problem we really can actually go a long way towards eliminating.

There are 62 million American women of childbearing age, 43 million of whom are "at risk" for unintended pregnancy. Women manage their fertility for an average of 30 years. "At risk" -- like an unplanned pregnancy is something that just happens to you, out of your control. NOT. These pregnancies have consequences for all of us. Someone needs to introduce the Purity Bear to the $12 billion dollars worth of consequences. And that's a conservative estimate.

Most girls and women (some of whom are part of a couple...) don't get pregnant if they don't want to when they have access to safe, affordable birth control, including emergency contraception. There are no medical or scientific reasons why girls and women need prescriptions for methods relevant to their needs. Just religious, shame-based ones based on stereotypes, control and fear. We should be scheduling birth control biotechnologies the way we do vaccines and they should not require prescriptions. That or we should start requiring prescriptions for condoms. Exactly how long do you think that option would fly with the Pecker Patrol?

The most obvious and immediate issue is the fact that emergency contraception, Plan B, is not available without a prescription and should be. The longer term issue is why American women are ill-informed about and therefore not using long-acting forms of reversible contraception.

It's been almost exactly a year since, in an unprecedented move, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an act of what some called scientifically unethical "national malpractice," overruled a Food and Drug Administration recommendation and restricted access to emergency contraception long known to be safe and effective for all females of childbearing age. This was roundly condemned by reproductive health care advocates as a political act, contrary to good public policy, sound scientific reasoning and bad for women and their health.

Unplanned pregnancies pervasively affect us all: PersonallySocietallyEconomically. And I'm not only thinking about the "motherhood penalty," direct medical costs or obvious expenses related to children. There are clear linkages to increases in other social ills: like crime, lower education levels, higher incidences of domestic abuse, increased pressure on the welfare system and more. Children who result from unplanned pregnancies are far likelier to experience developmental problems, poorer physical and mental health, to struggle in school. These steep costs exponentially exceed the cost of society's providing easy, affordable access to birth control.

Here are 50 reasons to sign this petition urging Kathleen Sebelius to do the right thing, get us on the right track, and make safe and effective contraception, especially emergency contraception, available to all girls and women and couples who need it, when they need it. 

50 Facts About Unplanned Pregnancies


  1. Rank of the US for unplanned teen pregnancies among developed nations: 1
  2. Rank of the US for abortions globally: Second
  3. Percentage of pregnancies in the US that are unplanned: 49%
  4. Percentage of women by the age of 45 who have experienced an unplanned pregnancy in the US: +50 percent.


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