Science, Sex, and Birth Control

We don't have a pro-science party and an anti-science party. We have two anti-science parties.

Democrats claim we have one party that upholds science and one that rejects it. When it comes to climate change, presidential polling, evolution and other topics, we are told, Republicans have no use for actual experts. They'd rather listen to Rep. Michele Bachmann, who claimed the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.

But today, I'm glad to report the Democratic charge has been discredited. We don't have a pro-science party and an anti-science party. We have two anti-science parties.

Press ReleasePress ReleaseThat's the clear implication of the controversy over Plan B, the "morning-after" pill that is used to avert pregnancy after unprotected sex. The GOP and its anti-abortion allies have long decried it as an "abortion pill," disregarding scientists who say it isn't. But President Barack Obama and his Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, have shown they too know how to close their ears to unwelcome facts.

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration decided to allow Plan B to be sold over-the-counter with no age restriction. Sebelius overruled that decision, mandating that girls under age 17 be required to get a prescription. It was the first time an HHS secretary had ever countermanded the FDA.

Obama backed her up, arguing that she imposed the limit because she wasn't keen on the idea "that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drugstore, should be able -- alongside bubble gum or batteries -- be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect."

But this week, it was Sebelius who found herself overruled. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman said it wasn't clear that the secretary even had the legal authority to interfere with the FDA policy -- and if she did, her policy was illegal because it was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable."

The Supreme Court has long taken the view that the government has no business getting between companies that make contraceptives and consumers who want to buy them. In 1972, it invalidated a Massachusetts law forbidding doctors from giving contraceptives to anyone who was not married. "If the right of privacy means anything," the court said, "it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."

Sebelius' decision made Plan B far harder to get for anyone under 17 -- not to mention those who are 17 or older but lack identification to prove their age. The effect was to make adolescent sex more dangerous than it has to be.

But the government has no right to inflict such fear on unwilling females of any age. As the judge put it, the policy was "an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their right to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions."

It also required the administration to turn a blind eye to the important realities. One is that the government already allows 10-year-olds to buy medications that can be harmful or even fatal -- such as acetaminophen, which can be used to commit suicide, laxatives, which are often used by bulimics, and cold medicines that can produce a high.

By contrast, this particular drug is free of serious risks. Plan B contraceptives, wrote Korman, "would be probably among the safest drugs approved for over-the-counter sale for the pediatric population."

Nor, despite the obstinate claims of opponents, are they "abortion drugs." The Government Accountability Office reports that they "have not been shown to cause a post-fertilization event -- a change in the uterus that could interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg."

If the president is truly concerned about the possible adverse effects of Plan B, he should ask: Compared to what? Pregnancy and childbirth are not exactly risk-free. They raise the risk of blood clots, strokes and heart attacks, among other unwanted side effects.

Each year in the United States, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, "about 700 women die of pregnancy-related complications and 52,000 experience emergencies such as acute renal failure, shock, respiratory distress, aneurysms and heart surgery. An additional 34,000 barely avoid death."

The district court judge recognized the absurdity of protecting teenagers from the imaginary risks of using a safe contraceptive while forcing them to accept the authentic ones that contraceptives can prevent. It was a triumph for science and rationality -- two commodities that Democrats as well as Republicans can often manage without.

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  • AlmightyJB||

    You are aware that as an adult, I can't buy pot or cocaine right?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Legally

  • wareagle||

    The effect was to make adolescent sex more dangerous than it has to be.

    because nothing but Plan-B makes it less risky? Come on.

  • Acosmist||

    Not sure I have ever met a Democrat who actually believed in evolution. Some claim to, but so far I don't know of one who has believed certain things trivially entailed by it.

    Maybe they just don't believe in doxastic closure.

  • Doctor Whom||

    There's plenty of rejection of science on the left. During the pomo/decon silly season, the left made Kent Hovind look like Stephen Hawking.

  • Acosmist||

    Many of them still think evolution is their thing, where they are clearly in support of science and Team Red's ignorant fundie army is not.

    Evolution is actually a field where they're really bad, instead of just pretty bad.

  • PapayaSF||

    Kennewick Man, IQ tests, GMO foods, most of economics....

  • Finrod||

    Don't forget the bogus 'vaccines cause autism' theory that has helped spread communicable disease because the clueless liberal parents don't get their kids vaccinated.

  • ||

    Cultural anthropologists still don't believe in evolution, at least not when it comes to human intelligence, human behavior, or human brains. The notion that human brains are all identical blank slates, entirely programmed by culture is a third rail issue to them. And it underlies a lot of stupid ideas leftists have about reprogramming people culturally to be more socialist.

  • Acosmist||

    Didn't they stop even saying they were scientists?

  • Mensan||

    I don't know what point you're making, but, just for clarity, anthropologists are not scientists.

  • ||

    Only people who are formally classified as scientists have to acknowledge evolution?

    Or are we admitting tha cultural anthropology has turn into a wierd religion with delusions of objectivity?

  • ||

    Also,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropology

    Anthropology is the "science of humanity." [1

  • ||

    I'm a little confused by some of these statements.

    The Government Accountability Office reports that they "have not been shown to cause a post-fertilization event -- a change in the uterus that could interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg."

    (First of all, why is the GAO making medical claims?)

    The way I understand it is that the whole way Plan B works is that it prevents the fetilized egg from implanting. That's the point. What it can't do it after implantation, cause the embryo to abort.

    Meadically speaking, your are not pregnant until after implantation. A fertilized egg floating around in your uterus isn't even a fetus, its a zygote. There are all sorts of cases where a fertilized egg fails to implant. It's called a chemical pregnancy.

    So, No, Plan B isn't an abortion drug, but YEs, it DOES interefere with the implantation of a fertilized egg.
    Obviously, whoever you quoted at the GAO isn't a gynecologist .(UNEXPECTEDLY!)

  • ||

    Hrm, ok I am wrong. Apparently, it just prevents ovulation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levonorgestrel

    So it is basically working the same way that regular birth control works.

  • Marshall Gill||

    That makes absolutely no sense. If all it did was to prevent ovulation, how would it work after the fact? You have sex and then ovulate and then get pregnant?

  • Marshall Gill||

    I should add, not that it is in question, I am obviously not an expert in human reproduction, either.

  • ||

    Yes. You can literally just take a high dose of regular BC pills for the same effect as Plan B. People used to do this when Plan B was harder to get.

  • Marshall Gill||

    You can literally just take a high dose of regular BC pills for the same effect as Plan B

    Which causes a prevention of implantation, right? I fail to see how a suppression of ovulation after the fact, ie "emergency contraception" would be effective at preventing fertilization. Wouldn't a huge majority, perhaps not 100%, ovulate before intercourse and have those eggs fertilized? Isn't it the ovulation before sex that causes most pregnancies?

  • ||

    You have sex and then ovulate and then get pregnant?

    Actually yes. Sperm stays alive for up to 6 days in your uterus.
    So it's often said that the most likely time to get pregant is having sex 1-2 days BEFORE you ovulate. That makes sure there's sprem ready and waiting the instant the egg pops out.

    If you've already ovulated it sounds like Plan B isn't going to help much.

  • seans88||

    The problem is that they don't appear to be entirely sure HOW Plan B works. This is from the product's website:

    Plan B® One-Step works similar to regular birth control pills; it simply contains a larger dose of the hormone levonorgestrel. Plan B® One-Step works primarily by:

    Preventing ovulation
    Possibly preventing fertilization by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or egg
    Altering the endometrium, which may inhibit implantation
    Plan B® One-Step is not effective once the process of implantation has begun. It will not affect an existing pregnancy or harm a developing fetus.

    (emphasis added).

    If it does work, even in part, by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg, then it may be medically accurate to say that Plan B isn't an "abortion" drug, but that's a distinction without a difference for anyone who believes that life begins at the point of fertilization.

  • PapayaSF||

    I am still doubtful that something that causes "a change in the uterus" is so totally safe that it can be sold like bubble gum. Now, I think current restrictions on all drugs are far too strong, but it smells funny to me that this particular one gets a pass.

  • Virginian||

    It gets a pass because they're trying to get the SoCons to squawk so they can ramp up the War on Women!!!1111 meme again.

  • PapayaSF||

    To the left, birth control and abortion are close to sacred. They don't really want to see health and safety standards applied elsewhere applied in those areas.

  • Finrod||

    For a horrific example of what that can lead to, just look up the story of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

  • ||

    Because 10 year olds are going to munch on plan B pills because they taste so good.

  • ||

    it may be medically accurate to say that Plan B isn't an "abortion" drug, but that's a distinction without a difference for anyone who believes that life begins at the point of fertilization.

    Except there are lots of "chemical pregnancies" where a fertilized egg just never implants. Usually the woman never even knows. The fertilized egg just passes out of the uterus and you have a normal period.

    So what's the difference between having a chemical prenancy that you never evne know about and taking a drug to make sure that any fertilized eggs stay chemical pregnancies and don't implant?

  • Marshall Gill||

    So what's the difference between having a chemical prenancy that you never evne know about and taking a drug to make sure that any fertilized eggs stay chemical pregnancies and don't implant?

    People die every day from natural causes. What is the difference between that and murder? Positive action.

  • seans88||

    Yes, this. If you believe that a fertilized egg is a human, the fact that such humans die all the time due to circumstances beyond your control does not justify killing them deliberately.

  • ||

    Is putting up a fence that stops an animal from eating my crops equivalent to mudering the animal?

    Preventing implantation is just putting a fence around your uterous. "No implantation here!". If the egg dies that's not my problem.

    or are you saying that a fertilized egg has a "positive right" to use my uterus?

  • seans88||

    Actually, you are killing the animal if there is no other source of food. You may see this killing as justified, but if the direct result of your action is that the animal is guaranteed to starve to death, then absolutely you are responsible for that death.

    More generally, your argument simply proves too much. If you believe that a fertilized egg is human, but think that preventing implantation is just "putting a fence around my uterus," then surely refusing to feed an infant is merely "putting a fence around my pantry - if the baby dies that's not my problem." In either event--assuming that you believe a fertilized egg should be treated as fully human, remember--it is internally consistent to also believe that someone who deliberately acts in such a way as to guarantee that human being's death is responsible for that death.

  • Marshall Gill||

    First of all, why is the GAO making medical claims?

    Good question. Makes you wonder how they came to their conclusions. Remember, these are the same people who swear the craziest bullshit you ever heard about the budget but they are experts in regard to human reproduction?

    A fertilized egg floating around in your uterus isn't even a fetus, its a zygote.

    And a zygote is?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah there's a lot of 10 year old girls fretting about access to RU486 right now. It's all over facebook.

  • ||

    Plan B is not RU486 or anything like it. It does nothing to stop the development of a fetus after implantation.

  • ||

    Huh, none of the 10 year old girls I follow are discussing this at all, but I guess n=19 isn't statistically significant.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, I was joking. I don't know any 10 year olds. Nor do I care about birth control since I got fixed.

  • Shaftoe||

    Do they need to be comforted?

  • Russell||

    Two Anti-Science parties? Surely we can do better - Britain's UKIP is striving to outdistance Labour and the Tories in gonzo climatology

  • Mensan||

    I think the adverse effect Sebelius was referring to was pregnancy.

  • Tony||

    But today, I'm glad to report the Democratic charge has been discredited.

    Why would this make you glad?

    Also, bullshit. There are degrees. Democrats aren't uneducated about the science of birth control like many, many Republicans are uneducated about the science of... everything.

  • some guy||

    Plenty of Democrats are uneducated about the science of everything too. Ignorance is one of the few things that enjoys wide bipartisan support.

  • some guy||

    http://blogs.discovermagazine......WcAj0qRfag

    http://anepigone.blogspot.com/.....cally.html

    It looks like conservatives/Republicans are worse on a few issues with significant religious consequences, but are better on everything else.

  • ||

    I liked the Haidt article a few weeks back. It's all about signalling.

    Being scientifically ignorant on certain subjects is a way of showing your Team, that you are a good, righteous, moral person.

    More Team Bluesters brains instantly shut off the instant you bring up GMOs. Danger! Danger! Potential Republican on the horizaon! Must signal correct alleigance! GMOs bad! Bad corporations! Wooop! Raise the blue flag! Woop!

    Or economics for that matter. They can't explain anything that goes on in the economy. It's just a short circuit to "Greed!" Why does Ebay want to raise ees? GREED! Why does Apple want to charge X for an iPhone? GREED! Why don't corporations sell products below cost? GREED! Why DO corporations sell products below cost? GREED! You don't actually have to analyze it any further, just stop at GREED.

  • some guy||

    So, in order to get along in this world it's easier to appease those around you than to challenge their errors and ignorance? I can see that. After all, believing in evolution or not believing in global warming will have no significant impact on your life, but expressing these beliefs can have a huge impact on your life.

  • some guy||

    her policy was illegal because it was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable."

    Is that really all it takes to declare an official action illegal? Because there's a ton of arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable shit on the books that has never even been challenged.

  • jordanjerry||

    my best friend's mother brought in $17471 a week ago. she been making cash on the laptop and got a $339200 home. All she did was get blessed and put into use the tips given on this web page and go to home tab for more detail--- big76.ℂom

  • ||

    Your statistics about the danger of pregnancy-how do these relate?
    Are you making the claim that the women these statistics represent would have chosen not to become pregnant if they had the opportunity? I doubt that claim could be substantiated.
    I am not at all claiming Plan C should not be offered without a prescription. That decision should be made based on the danger of Plan C to the person taking it, not whether pregnancy would be more or less dangerous statistically, which would depend on many personal factors. After all, we need a prescription for anti-biotics, even though having the person go untreated is clearly dangerous in many cases.

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