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Op-ed: Women Today, Gays Tomorrow? 

Op-ed: Women Today, Gays Tomorrow? 


When politicians play politics with women's bodies, women always lose. And when women lose, the fallout hits LGBT people as well.

While Republican presidential candidates have been fighting over who is most conservative throughout the January primaries, LGBT people seem to have missed the sucker punch President Obama delivered just before Christmas where he showed his own conservative stripes for purely political reasons.

In December, after thorough review, the Food and Drug Administration approved expanding the use of the contraceptive Plan B to women under 18. Plan B is not an abortifacient like RU-486; there is no risk of bleeding. Plan B is a high dosage of the same compound found in birth control pills. It works to prevent fertilization.

It's safe and should be accessible to every woman of childbearing age and ability. It is the best preventative to pregnancy and abortion available, excepting regular use of contraceptives.

When the FDA said yes, however, Obama said no in a move that was pro-politics and antiscience. His reasoning? He didn't want his own daughters finding Plan B "alongside bubble gum or batteries" in the local drugstore.

President Obama campaigned on being pro-science -- understanding global warming, stem cell research, and the like. But just as he undermined the Environmental Protection Agency's clean air ruling last September, he undermined the FDA -- and women -- right before Christmas. It was the kind of antiscience move one expects from far-right Tea Party extremists, not from a Democratic president.

The importance of the FDA ruling cannot be overstated, which is why Obama overriding that ruling is so troubling. The majority of first trimester abortions in the U.S. -- as well as the majority of the third trimester abortions in the U.S. -- are performed on women between the ages of 12 and 24. Plan B doesn't just prevent pregnancy, it prevents abortion. It gives women who were either forced to have sex or who had unplanned sex an immediate option to not get pregnant.

Why would Obama take away that option? When he cites his own daughters, Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, he's not looking at the actual demographic for teen pregnancy. Most young women who get pregnant early are not in two-parent, one percenter households.

The Plan B debate faded from political discourse as suddenly as it arose. But for women and gay men, who have much at stake in having control over their own bodies, the issue cannot be ignored. It's not just teenage girls who might get pregnant who are affected by Obama's right-wing, antiscience decision. It's also LGBT people who want control over their own bodies with regard to health issues from HIV/AIDS to gender reassignment.

If Obama can dismiss the FDA's findings on something as safe as Plan B predicated on his personal or political whims, then what is to prevent him from doing the same with something less obviously safe, like hormone treatments for transgender youth or HIV cocktails for teenagers? Once politics posing as morality becomes a litmus test for science, the slippery slope is already before us.

When the president rules against science, we all lose. And once ground is lost in battles that refer back to the so-called culture wars like women's rights and LGBT rights, there's no regaining it.

Plan B is safer than aspirin and Tylenol, both readily available to girls 12 and older every day. Plan B is as safe as condoms, which are available in every supermarket and drugstore now. (Obama didn't mention them being near the bubble gum and batteries.)

Obama ignored not just the FDA, but the Democratic commitment to choose facts over feelings. It was a move that bodes ill for women and queers as the election cycle heats up: Plan B today, who knows what tomorrow.

VICTORIA A. BROWNWORTH is an award-winning journalist and the author and editor of nearly 30 books. Her most recent book, From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth has been nominated for the Coretta Scott King Award, the Foreword Book of the Year Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for 2012. Follow her on Twitter @VABVOX and check her political blog

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