This week we stand on the cusp of an exciting milestone for women's health as the FDA evaluates whether or not to allow the Plan B One-Step emergency contraception to be brought from behind the pharmacist's counter, onto the shelves with other contraceptive methods. If they approve this move, as we hope they will, it would be a great victory for women's health care; when a woman can plan how and when she wants to have her family, there are proven health, economic and social benefits to her, her family, and indeed our society overall.
The Plan B One-Step is a single-pill emergency contraceptive designed to be taken as soon as possible within 72 hours after known or suspected contraceptive failure or unprotected sex. Facilitating better access to the morning after pill will bring great benefits to women of reproductive age, allowing them access to emergency contraception over-the-counter even if the pharmacist is not present or the pharmacy window is closed.
If the FDA approves this step, it will reflect the proven science of an important contraceptive innovation for American women. Access to reliable and safe contraception is a fundamental component of basic health care. Yet, directly in conflict with that science, many ideologues are once again trying to stand in the way of this advancement for women's health care.
To be clear -- emergency contraception is not a so-called "abortion pill." Much like the traditional birth-control pill, Plan B One-step works to prevent fertilization, and therefore, pregnancy. Despite false declarations from extreme opponents, Plan B One-step does not work if the woman is already pregnant.
Opponents try to question the contraceptive's safety and whether it will somehow encourage sexual activity among teenage girls. But medical experts from across the spectrum -- like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics -- agree that Plan B One-step is safe for over-the-counter use by anyone at risk of an unintended pregnancy. And study after study has shown absolutely no evidence that suggests that making contraception available to teens encourages them to have sex.
Naysayers have also tried to question whether girls and women could use Plan B One-Step properly without a doctor's supervision, as though girls simply would not have the capacity to understand the directions. But a recent study revealed that over three-quarters of teenage girls understood the proposed packaging well enough to use the drug safely and effectively on their own.
Finally, in what is clearly one of the most offensive arguments extreme ideologues have yet to present, they maintain that making this safe, reliable contraception available over-the-counter will somehow lead more men to have sex with underage girls. Quite simply, these predators' horrific crimes do not depend upon the availability of contraception, and to suggest otherwise serves only to excuse their monstrous behavior as crimes of opportunity or convenience.
Opposition to bringing Plan B One-Step over-the-counter, to be sold along with the rest of safe and proven contraception, is based in political and ideological motivation, not proven science. Unfortunately as we have seen again and again this year alone, there is a persistent movement of extremists committed to treating women like second-class citizens who either are incapable of making their own decisions, or should be forced to leave their most personal decisions to the ideology of others.
Certainly we can all agree that preventing unintended pregnancy in this country is good for our families, our society and our nation. Plan B One-Step will take another stride forward in preventing unintended pregnancy. Opponents of this action should stop placing political ideology over women's health, and instead recognize the great benefits this has for us all.
Follow Rep. Diana DeGette on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@RepDianaDeGett