Marchers with Slutwalk Knoxville: Wiki Commons by By Brian Stansberry (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
We have an epidemic of rape and other violence against women in this country, and around the world. We also have a national and international stranglehold on the privacy and sovereignty of women's bodies. As the Rape, Assault & Abuse Nation Network reports , every two minutes, someone in the U.S. in sexually assaulted, and 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. In the meantime, the Tea-Party led "war on women" is going after, not just abortion rights, but the right to use birth control, as well.
Enter the Emergency Contraception debate . When the Obama Administration first overruled the FDA's decision to make Plan B - a medication that prevents pregnancy for a certain period of time after sexual intercourse - available over the counter to women and girls of all ages, I wrote about Chris Hayes' coverage of the issue on his show Up with Chris Hayes. At the time, I was disappointed with the show's failure to mention rape as the obvious example of an "emergency" for which Plan B would be needed.
As the Obama Administration continues to push back against any effort to make this time sensitive remedy available to all who may need it, when they need it, I'm astonished to see most of the discussion - even on liberal MSNBC, and again on Hayes' new show - center around our squeamishness about teens having sex, as if consensual sex was somehow all we need to worry about. In case there's any confusion on this issue: rape is not "having sex." Rape is assault, it is violence, and it can happen at literally any age. In fact, Obama's reasoning: that girls are maturing at a younger age, so that we need to counteract that by raising the age at which they can obtain Plan B, makes absolutely no sense. If a girl can be impregnated against her will at age 9, 10, or 11, why shouldn't she be able to access emergency contraception at that age?
When Chris Hayes again addressed Emergency Contraception on his new show, All in with Chris Hayes, I was impressed that he had an all-female panel. However, once again, the focus was on teen sexuality rather than teen victimization. One panelist in particular, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Karen Hunter, took a particularly virulent opposition to wider availability of Plan B. At one point in the discussion, she referred to it as "an abortion pill," which drew strong opposition from other panelists. (Panelists who nonetheless, ignored the case of rape.) While she later apologized, some of her tweets after the show - addressed to me and others - made me wo nder if she still thought of Plan B as an abortion pill. For instance, in one tweet she said that providing Plan B over-the-counter is " ... just giving kids a free pass to not even think about their bad choices." In another, in response to my analogy with the free availability of condoms, she said, "Come on, Dr...you put Plan B on the same level as condoms?"
Even the MSNBC blog post linked above, by Feministing editor Chloe Angyal, focuses on teen sexuality.
If we can't rely even on staunch feminists to correctly frame the issue of emergency contraception, then perhaps it's no wonder that we appear to be losing that battle.