In a recent PolicyMic article, pundit Matty Carville correctly cites political reasons for the recent DHHS overruling of the FDA with respect to the availability of Plan B. Flying in the face of all scientific evidence, women must (still) provide a prescription (or drop $50 of their own money since insurance doesn’t cover pills without a prescription) and prove they are over the age of 17 to receive the morning after pill. The FDA has ruled the pill safe be sold over the counter.
While Carville is correct — this is a political ploy to pander to a more conservative element, to win Obama more votes in 2012 — it is a symptom of something more widespread and damaging.
As a nation, we and our political leaders have been leading a highly publicized war on preventative medicine in the field of sexual health. Everything from the availability of birth control and condoms, to the legality of abortion, to the use of Gardasil (the HPV vaccine), is de facto limited in its efficacy by both the negative press surrounding it and out-and-out attacks on its safety and morality. Reproductive rights and human, particularly female, sexuality are under attack.
In July, the Republican-run New Hampshire executive board voted to defund Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, rendering them unable to provide birth control and other contraception, and making the status of routine pelvic exams and STD screening and treatment rest on thin ice. Their reasoning? “I am opposed to abortion. I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party, but don’t ask me to pay for it,” said Raymond Wieczorek about his council vote to defund PPNNE.
When Texas Governor Rick Perry suggested all young women in Texas be required to receive the three-stage HPV vaccine (kudos to Perry, by the way), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) countered, pandering to her own ultra-Conservative base, by citing unsupported claims of devastating side effects (despite the fact that both boys and girls can take it safely).
And then, of course, there is the right to choose: Billboards throughout the country try to shame and scare women out of this right, and anti-abortion activists spout unsupported claims that abortion causes mental illness and harass women outside clinics. Not to mention the anti-abortion pledge signed by several of the current GOP candidates, in which they “vow to appoint only anti-abortion personnel to “relevant administration posts” and “promise to advance pro-life legislation’ and end taxpayer funding of abortion and de-fund Planned Parenthood.”
These are only a few examples of how all-encompassing the war on preventative medicine in sexual health has become. By outlawing every safe and effective preventative measure, we are wasting money on later treatments and harming the physical and mental health of those who, with adequate preventative care, would not have needed care later on. Until we can understand and, more importantly, accept that preventative medicine will save more money and more lives in the long run, we will continue to fight these superficial political battles while we suffer.