At Least be Rational

The announcement of the FDA’s decision that the “morning after pill,” now called Plan B, will be available to adults without a prescription has been in the news for several days. This morning’s article in the News Sentinel states the opposition as:

Opponents believe making the pills more available could increase promiscuity and spur their use by sexual predators.

Given the price tag of $25-$40, I think not. Even if it were $5, it’s neither convenient enough, nor cost-effective enough, to become anyone’s first choice for a birth control method — aside from the fact that most of us are a little wary of gobbling up large doses of hormones, due to the inherent risks and inevitable side effects. It’s certainly not enough to change anyone’s morals or lead to dreaded promiscuity.

A similar argument has been used against the recently-approved vaccine for human papillomavirus, now known to be a leading cause of cervical cancer. From NewScientist:

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. “Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV,” says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

“Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex,” Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.

The last sentence is important: it’s likely that the only young women who have ever heard of the virus, or its link to cancer, are those who have already visited a gynecologist or family planning clinic, or whose mothers are open, educated, and forthright enough to actually tell their daughters about it. Those mothers are also most likely to have counseled their children on the dangers of promiscuity (which includes a variety of other health, emotional, and social risks) as well as prevention of pregnancy and disease.

The second point is, of course, that the virus could be transmitted on a woman’s wedding night, neither spouse knowing that he carried it.

No mother wants her daughter to sleep around. But the danger of unexpected pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease is far, far worse than the moral or social effects of premarital sex.

The traditional barriers to premarital sex have been 1) pregnancy, 2) parents finding out, and more recently, disease. With options now to decrease (but not eliminate) the risks of pregnancy and disease, the key lies with parents: to instill in their daughters a sense of self esteem — low self esteem likely being the greatest factor in promiscuity among teenage girls — and to convey the benefits of reserving something very special for someone very special.

The latter won’t always work, so it’s important that girls and women also know how to protect their health and avoid unplanned pregnancy.

It’s time to put an end to the shrill voices that would risk women’s lives for one group’s version of morality.

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