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sexeducationIn the barrage of bad bills introduced at the legislature in recent days, there is one that would result in great harm to sexual health education but that has thus far drawn little attention. House Bill 596 would rewrite the current requirements for sex education in schools, making an already flawed law even worse. The current law requires students to be taught mostly about abstinence but at least includes some discussion of contraception methods and safe sex practices. However, the new law, if passed, would forbid schools from teaching students about emergency contraceptive measures like Plan B, commonly known as the morning-after-pill.

Plan B and other methods of emergency contraception allow women to take a pill within five days of unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy. Based on approval by the FDA, these pills are currently available at pharmacies over-the-counter. Easier access to the pill has resulted in a lower rate of teenage pregnancy in the state (not to mention, been vital in cases of rape). Currently, all FDA-approved contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy can be taught in the classroom.

Representative Chris Whitmire, sponsor of HB 596, however, believes that the schools should not be teaching students about such products, even if they are FDA-approved. According to Whitmire’s logic, which doesn’t appear to be based on medical training of any kind, Plan B can cause spontaneous abortions and, therefore, schools should not teach students about it. However, according to doctors with actual medical training, Plan B “works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. The drug acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary.” In fact, Plan B does not even have the ability to cause an abortion. In cases where the fertilized egg has been implanted, the drug is ineffective and the pregnancy proceeds as normal.

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Commentary

Thom Tillis 2As was explained at some length in this post earlier this year, there are several reasons that the support voiced during the 2014 campaign by Senator-elect Thom Tillis and other conservative candidates for access to “over-the-counter” contraceptives was a disingenuous batch of baloney cooked up by GOP campaign consultants.

…the trick lies in the conservative politicians’ deceptive use of a term (“over the counter contraceptives”) that really has no practical meaning.

Currently, the main and most effective contraceptives available to women are not available without a prescription (i.e. “over the counter”). Moreover, as Planned Parenthood Vice President and occasional N.C. Policy Watch contributor Melissa Reed pointed out in a statement last week,

“…while leading women’s health experts agree that some forms of birth control should be made available OTC, there is not a single manufacturer that has submitted an application to the FDA to do so.”

In other words, to be “for” OTC contraceptives without providing any genuine specifics about how and when the government would go about effecting such a momentous change is meaningless and a downright deceptive and empty gesture.

Nonetheless, one might have thought that the GOP would at least pay lip service to the idea after the election in order to cover their tracks for a while. As this article featuring Thom Tillis  (in yesterday’s Washington Times, of all places) makes clear, however, that ain’t gonna’ happen. The article says that expanding OTC access in the upcoming session of Congress is (surprise!!) “markedly absent” from the plans of GOP leaders.

And somewhere, Karl Rove is smiling.

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Hobby LobbyAs reported in numerous places — click here for Ian Millhiser’s quick take at the for the Center for American Progress — the widely-dreaded Hobby Lobby decision came down today from the U.S. Supreme Court. In response, the good folks at Mother Jones posted the following article.

On Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned a blistering dissent to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that the government can’t require certain employers to provide insurance coverage for methods of birth control and emergency contraception that conflict with their religious beliefs. Ginsburg wrote that her five male colleagues, “in a decision of startling breadth,” would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find “incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Here are seven more key quotes from Ginsburg’s dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: Read More

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Reproductive rights2FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2013            

ACLU: ‘Conscious Protection’ Bill Is Opposite of Religious Liberty
H.B. 730 Would Allow Public Hospital Employees to Refuse Abortion Care & Private Employers to Refuse Contraception Coverage for Women Because of Religious Beliefs

RALEIGH – A bill that would allow public hospital employees to refuse to participate in abortion care and private employers to deny contraception coverage to women because of their personal religious beliefs was approved by North Carolina House Judiciary Committee A today. House Bill 730 now heads to the full House for a vote.

In response, the ACLU of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) released the following statement: Read More

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Two powerful new studies are in the headlines this morning that ought to spur a renewed societal commitment to promoting affordable, easy-to-access birth control for every woman who wants it.

#1 – Associated Press reports that:

“Free birth control led to dramatically lower rates of abortions and teen births, a large study concluded Thursday, offering strong evidence for how a bitterly contested Obama administration policy could benefit women’s health.

The project tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured. They were given their choice Read More