27 February 2006
The Washington Post reports that more than 60 bills concerning “Plan B” emergency contraception have been filed in state legislatures in 2006 alone, leading to a state-by-state divide that largely reflects predictable “red state/blue state” lines, with some of the bills expanding patients’ access to the medication without prescriptions, or ensuring that pharmacies and hospitals will stock and distribute it, while other bills would complicate the procedure for obtaining the drug with requirements for parental notification or “conscience clause” bills that would exempt pharmacists and pharmacies who don’t want to dispense or carry the pills. Why the rush of legislation? In large part, because of the publicity that was lavished on the issue last year, after a number of highly-publicized cases wherein women were denied their valid prescriptions. But also, argue women’s health researchers, because the FDA’s failure to act on over-the-counter status for emergency contraception — largely credited to lobbying efforts from religious anti-abortion groups who think that hormonal contraception works to abort fertilized eggs — punted the issue back to the state level: a convenient-enough outcome for the FDA’s social conservatives, who tested a number of inconsistent arguments against the medication, both pseudo-scientific and moralizing, before settling on this post-Roe-like arrangement.