via National Women’s Liberation. The New York chapter of NWL will hold a speakout on January 22, 2013, in front of the Health and Human Services office at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, NY, to demand unrestricted access to the Morning-After Pill. According to their press release, “we are holding our speakout on the anniversary of Roe v Wade because we believe that all women and girls should have access to all tools that enable us to control our reproductive lives.”
Members of this group have been fighting against age restrictions on over-the-counter emergency contraception since January 2004, when they “led the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy Coalition to show the injustice of the restriction on the MAP and to show that woman are the real experts when it comes to birth control. On February 15, 2004, we began a civil disobedience campaign where 4,500 women signed a pledge promising to give a friend the MAP in defiance of the FDA’s prescription only requirement. In January 2005, nine if us were arrest’s at the FDA’s headquarters as part of a larger protest of the FDA’s inaction.”
It’s nice to see the return of this group of activists. As I describe in my book. the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy was inspired by the grassroots activism of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s: In an interview, one of the group’s founders, Annie Tummino said, “We speak out and engage in civil disobedience. Our goal is to send the message that women are the experts on our bodies and lives.” MAPC used a variety of direct-action techniques to protest the FDA and the Bush Administration’s stance on emergency contraception. They held consciousness-raising sessions; speak outs in major cities; and committed various acts of civil disobedience including passing along emergency contraceptive kits to women without a prescription.
Most emblematic of their ties to Second Wave feminist organizing were their actions at the March for Women’s Lives Washington, DC on April 25, 2004. The group held a mini-rally where a dozen women “testified about rushing around trying to get the Morning-After Pill after a condom broke during sex, about the prohibitive costs associated with a doctor’s visit, and about the tragicomic idea that anyone can get a doctor’s appointment in twenty-four hours, especially starting on a Friday or Saturday night.” In defiance of “unjust” prescription laws, the group flung boxes of Plan B® into the crowd. They also invited spectators “to join them in signing the Morning After Pill Conspiracy pledge to defy the prescription requirement (and break the law) by giving a friend the Morning-After Pill whenever she needs it.”
A group of physicians from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals’ Reproductive Health Access Project contributed to this display of feminist direct action by bringing their prescription pads and freely writing prescriptions for emergency contraception for any woman who wanted one. According to MAPC member Jenny Brown, these doctors “were illustrating a point which was repeated over and over in the FDA’s advisory hearings–no physical evaluation or instruction from medical professionals is needed to safely and effectively use this medication.” Members of MAPC declared they “were proud to follow in the footsteps of feminists like Margaret Sanger, who passed out information on birth control when it was illegal to do so, and suffragists who were arrested for voting, to showcase how unjust the laws were.” Like the feminist activists who protested against the abuse of women subjects during the 1970s, MAPC members held a sit-in at FDA headquarters in January of 2005, where nine of their members were arrested for blocking access to the FDA, “just like they were blocking women’s access to birth control.”
Members of the MAPC members then filed a lawsuit, Tummino, et al. v. Hamburg with the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. From the lawsuit and feminist organizing, the FDA agreed to approve Plan B for women 18 and older without a prescription, in August 2006. In March 2009- the FDA was ordered to make Plan B available to 17 year olds and to review its decision to deny a “Citizen’s Petition” filed by 60+ women’s health and rights organizations. In February 2012, the MAPC took the FDA back to court based on its continued failure to act on removing scientifically unsupported restrictions on the MAP.
To support these efforts of NWL, you can attend the rally, sign their petition demanding the FDA and HHS to stop carding for emergency contraception, “like” them on Facebook, and forward their press release to other activists.