The fight for women’s rights has been a dynamic and lengthy one. First, Second, and Third Wave Feminism have given way to a 21st century feminism that is slightly harder to define.
A major part of political feminism and women’s rights today are the issues of birth control and abortion. The topic encompassed discussions of gender equality, morality, and whether or not women should have total say in keeping or aborting their unborn children.
The issue of birth control has been a huge factor in recent elections; President Obama owes his female support in part to his policies on more accessible birth control and less restricted abortion.
However, one thing that Obama did not entirely endorse is complete lack of restriction of the morning-after pill, or “Plan B.”
While approving the general idea of the morning-after pill, President Obama and his administration felt that some restrictions were practical and necessary. For the past year, Obama has argued that the pill should be easily available to all women above a certain age: 17.
For all women above the age of 17, the morning-after pill could be purchased without a prescription. However, many felt that is was “common sense” to have an age restriction, while others felt that enabling young women or girls to acquire the pill would promote promiscuity.
Whatever the line of thinking, the yearlong debate has ended as the Obama administration backs down from its stance. Many disapprove, but its news worth celebrating for women’s rights activists and sexually active 16-year-olds across the nation.
Most liberal-minded individuals could agree that all women have a right to easily accessible birth control. But is eradicating the age restriction on this controversial drug really a good idea?
To those who accuse accessibility to the pill of endorsing promiscuity in young women, think about the mentality of the average teenager. In the mind of a 16-year-old girl or boy, they are invincible; nothing like an unplanned pregnancy could possibly happen to them. So, does taking away an option of birth control really mean anything to them?
No. If they’re determined, they’re going to have sex anyway.
Secondly, the argument for unrestricted morning-after pill access wouldn’t even exist if there weren’t already enough sexually active teens. People didn’t want unrestricted access so that teens could have sex, they wanted it because teens are already having sex.
That isn’t to say that the argument couldn’t be made that unrestricted access influences adolescent sex in some way. But the fact remains that whether we approve of it or not, individuals under the age of 17 are going to be sexually active.
A word that is thrown around a lot in any discussion about minors is “safety.” Inevitably, many people believe that individuals under the age of 17 should not take the morning-after pill because it is not “safe.” Fortunately, this isn’t true.
The pill has very few short-term side effects (such as headaches or nausea) and long-term side effects are extremely rare. This is true for women of all ages. As a result, even those of us desperate to protect our youth at any cost have to admit that the pill is fairly safe.
Most young people are not ready to be mothers or fathers, or even to bear children (even if they give the baby up for adoption). The most obvious solution to this is to not have sex, but it’s not a realistic expectation.
Having unrestricted access to all forms of birth control in this day and age is practically a necessity. We don’t like to think that the people who we think of as “kids” are having sex, but it’s happening regardless.
For me and many others, the unrest about this new plan isn’t that our youth can access birth control, but rather that they need it. It’s unfortunate that so few adolescents are incapable of making intelligent, safe decisions, but it’s nothing that we can change immediately.
Rather than denying access to birth control because we don’t agree with adolescent sexual activity, we should deal with the problem at its root and examine why so many teens have unprotected sex outside of committed relationships.
Overall, this newest decision by the federal government symbolizes a large and positive step in women’s rights. Whether we disapprove of someone’s decisions, they are in the end their decisions to make. Enabling all women to purchase the morning-after pill, though it may make us uncomfortable, is the right thing to do.