On this weekend twenty six years ago, women paraded down New York's Fifth Avenue to mark the tenth anniversary of Women's Strike for Equality and the sixtieth anniversary of the women's right to vote.
Barbara Seaman was among the crowd of marchers. A health journalist focusing on patient concerns, she is well known for her book The Doctor's Case Against the Pill, which revealed the health risks of the birth control pill. The publication of the book led to Senate hearings on the dangers of the Pill after Seaman wrote to Senator Gaylord Nelson. The Senate hearings resulted in an FDA warning for users of the Pill, the first warning label for a prescription drug.
I was reminded of Barbara Seaman’s activism this week when birth control was again in the news, this time related to emergency contraception, AKA “the Morning After Pill”. On Thursday, after years of contentious debate, the FDA approved over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception to women 18 and older.
As expected, public leaders have expressed mixed reactions. Senator Hilary Clinton lauded the approval of the drug, while Senator Tom Coburn criticized it for the risk to women’s health.
What does the general public think? Some women are heralding it as a triumph, while other organizations such as NOW view it as an incomplete victory because it denies over-the-counter access to women younger than 18.
Which is it? And is this an issue of health or politics or both?