We in America have been told a lot of lies about sex, reproduction, and sexual health. A recent federal district court ruling in Tummino v. Torti has illuminated at least part of the system of corruption and anti-science religious agenda we’ve been subjected to over the past eight years. Judge Korman ruled that the FDA knowingly engaged in arbitrary and capricious decisionmaking regarding the emergency contraception known as “Plan B,” or the “morning after pill.”
For the rest of this post, I will use the words “religious” and “political” interchangeably. I do so with intent and without apologies. Anyone who doubts that the Bush administration was a theocracy needs to have their head examined. The evidence could not be more clear. At any rate, we should be familiar with the way the religious have pushed their agenda. We got a blueprint from the Shrub himself when he invaded Iraq. First, he stirred up emotional outrage, with the help of an unrelated terrorist attack. Then, he spread lies about the Iraqi government hiding WMDs, and trying to buy yellow cake uranium. Then, he strong-armed congress into doing his will with accusations of Anti-Americanism hanging over the heads of any dissenters.
We can look at the morning after pill agenda and see the same pattern. The emotion is already built into the debate. Since Roe v. Wade, hardly an election has gone by that hasn’t included emotional rhetoric about killing babies, or how godless heathens were turning America into a cesspool of sin and corruption because women were choosing not to allow every fetus the chance to grow into a human. Unlike Iraq, there was no need to steal emotion from somewhere else. The Religious Right has been stirring up emotion for decades.
Step Two is the most important in religious agenda programs. Misinformation is the key. With the morning-after pill, like Iraq, we had to believe that it was connected to a “known evil.” For the religious right, that meant linking the pill to abortion. There are still many people who have believed FOX News and their preachers. They think Plan-B is an abortifacient, and it’s not. The reason the pill only works within 72 hours is that it prevents fertilization. It does not kill an already fertilized egg. It works in essentially the same way as birth control pills. There is no controversy about this. The pill is not an abortion pill. The fact that it was ever called an abortion pill is evidence of the agenda. There was never a scientific reason to give it that name. (There were debunked studies indicating that the pill might be implicated in preventing implantation of fertilized eggs, but these studies were, as I said, not borne out by good science.) The United States, which grudgingly approved Plan B by prescription only, is the only country in the modern world which doesn’t have multiple legal options for emergency contraception.
The original request for OTC (over-the-counter) status for Plan B was submitted in 2001. The FDA found that it met all of the criteria for OTC, but a single doctor (at the behest of “political forces” stalled the approval process by citing “safety concerns” including whether or not people would be likely to use Plan B instead of the pill, or whether average women are smart enough to figure out how to take a single dose pill within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. (This, despite evidence from all over the world that women are indeed smart enough to figure it out, and piles of evidence indicating that women prefer birth control pills to Plan-B, given the choice.) After five years of debating “safety concerns” such as these, the FDA denied OTC availability. The decision was largely based on an “Advisory Committee” that was appointed with careful oversight by the Bush administration. Instead of finding highly qualified doctors, scientists, and pharmacists, the government’s stated goal was to create a “balance of opinion” on the committee. In case you are living in an alternate universe, this is political double-speak for “We were trying to change the decision based on non-scientific grounds.”
Let’s not make light of these facts. Unfortunately for the religious, the facts themselves are now incontrovertible. Even taking into account the incredibly unreasonable desire of the religious right to impose their religion on everybody, Plan B is not an abortion-inducing drug. It is functionally no different than the birth control pill, which is legal everywhere in America. There is not one single scientific reason why it should not be made available over the counter. Not one. The only objections to the pill have been religious in nature, but as they are wont to do, the religious have hidden their agenda under levels of thinly veiled concerns for “public safety.”
For those of my readers who think I’m too hard on religious moderates, take this as an example of why I must be so. This religious imposition onto non-religious Americans can only be defended on religious grounds. For anyone who believes that America is a country where religion and government must be separate, the only possible response to this situation has to be outrage. But… where was the moderate religious outrage? I’ll tell you. The religious moderate outrage over the morning after pill was virtually non-existent. Apart from a few Lutherans in Boston and a couple of Unitarians in Nebraska, it appears that nearly the entire body of believers in America sat by silently while science was mocked and the Constitution trampled.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Most moderates will never stand up against fundamentalists. They will not side with us evil atheists because this is not about living together peacefully. It’s about religion versus science. As I wrote yesterday, the intellectual battle has been won. There is no debate between creation/evolution, and there ought not be a debate over either abortion rights or the morning after pill. Intelligent Design has no place in any school. The only argument against abortion rights is religious, and so it should be immediately dismissed without further comment. The morning-after pill is safe and functional. Any religious moderate who is not standing actively against any religious zealot trying to impose his will on me or any of my fellow American atheists is complicit in America’s descent into theocracy.