Staten Islanders react to judge's ruling on morning-after pill

Kiawana Rich

Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

April 06, 2013

Excerpts from the original article below..

STATEN ISLAND, N.J. -- Friday's ruling by a federal judge in New York making the morning-after pill available to women of all ages drew swift condemnation from some quarters on Staten Island.

"I think it's a very tragic and sad decision," said Monsignor Peter Finn, co-vicar of Staten Island and pastor of Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church, West Brighton, in regard to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman, "because it's harmful to girls and women and society at large."

Korman deemed age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable" and said they must end within 30 days.

His ruling means consumers of any age could buy emergency contraception without a prescription -- instead of women first having to prove they're 17 or older, as they do today. And it could allow Plan B One-Step to move out from behind pharmacy counters to the store counters.

The Justice Department didn't immediately say whether it would appeal the ruling, which is widely viewed as a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration.

The idea that the pill thwarts unwanted pregnancies, Monsignor Finn said, is "highly speculative and very unrealistic. If anything, it will encourage people to do whatever they want and take a shot or a chance. I don't see where it will stop anything."

He noted that parents must give consent in matters that are far more trivial -- giving a child an aspirin in school, for example.

It's the latest twist in a decade-long push for easier access to emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.

The Food and Drug Administration actually was preparing to lift all age limits on Plan B One-Step in late 2011 when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an unprecedented move, overruled her own scientists. Sebelius said some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children but shouldn't be able to buy the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own.

President Barack Obama said he supported the decision, also citing concern for young girls.

That move shocked women's groups -- and in his ruling, Korman blasted Sebelius for what he called an "obviously political" decision.

"This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds," Korman wrote, saying the number of young girls using such drugs "is likely to be minuscule."

Yet the sales restrictions are making it hard for women of all ages to buy the pills, especially young and low-income ones, he said.

Janet Morana, executive director of the New Dorp-based Priests for Life and founder of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign, said Korman's ruling put the lives of teenage girls at risk.

"This ruling is misguided on so many levels," said Ms. Morana. "It is yet another assault on parental rights. Laws that prevent school officials from giving a Tylenol to a teen with a headache without a parent's say-so are thrown out the window whenever contraception and abortion come into play. This ruling solidifies the 'progressive' belief that where teenage sexuality is concerned, parents have no business in getting involved.

Ms. Morana lamented what she said is a dearth of research into the effects of the drug on teens' health. She said the drug warns of risks of ectopic pregnancy, but she believes most girls would likely shun assistance if there's a problem.

"Is it logical to think that same girl is going to turn herself in, so to speak, to her parents and doctor? Teens are experts at denying reality. This decision is deadly," she said.

"It is yet another boon for boys," she added. "Instead of teaching boys and young men to respect women, to understand that 'no' means 'no,' we are telling them that actions no longer have consequences, that whatever has been done can be undone. Will this ruling lead to more date rape? I think it will."

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