April 9, 2013 — USA Today on Monday published an opinion piece and an opposing editorial that responded to a federal judge's ruling last week that ordered the Obama administration to lift age restrictions on nonprescription sales of emergency contraception. The administration is deciding whether to appeal the decision.
~ Nancy Northup, USA Today: Northup -- president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which led the legal effort to lift the restrictions on EC sales -- writes that she "feel[s] it's [her] duty to ensure that the broader point of this effort -- to expand access to a safe and reliable means of preventing unintended pregnancy for women of all ages -- does not get lost" in the debate. Northup notes that the "visceral reaction of many parents to the idea of teens having direct access to" EC is understandable. However, the judge was correct in stating that the "issue of teen sexuality is a red herring that the U.S. government has used for more than a decade to impose restrictions motivated purely by politics -- not science -- that have placed barriers between women of all ages and the [EC] of which they sometimes find themselves in urgent need," Northup argues. As the court noted, "ample evidence clearly demonstrat[es] not only the safety of [EC] ... but also the fact that women of all ages understand the drug's proper use as backup to regular birth control," she continues. Northup concludes, "In a country where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, clearing away the barriers to all safe and effective means of contraception is what must be regarded as common sense" (Northup, USA Today, 4/8).
~ USA Today: Noting that the ruling "stirs a complex stew of issues that affect not just law and science but also cultural sensitivities and deeply personal questions about sex, religion and child-rearing," the USA Today editorial argues that "political judgment" and "common sense" are needed. The editorial acknowledges that "making the drug more readily available would avoid unwanted pregnancies," but it questions whether "children [should] really be given unfettered access to a drug that can be dangerous if used improperly and has significant side effects ... even if instructions are followed." The editorial argues that EC should remain behind the counter to "ensure that young teens will at least get instructions about its use from a pharmacist." The editorial concludes by urging the Obama administration to appeal the judge's decision, stating, "The greater good is to leave decisions about the medical treatment of children in their parents' hands" (USA Today, 4/8).