Does It Hurt To Be This Stupid?

Who was it who once said it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt?

Top ten signs you should not be allowed to wade into the gene pool:

1. You passed your 40th birthday without acquiring enough common sense to realize that birth control only works if you use it all the time:

I am a 42-year-old happily married mother of two elementary-schoolers. My husband and I both work, and like many couples, we're starved for time together. One Thursday evening this past March, we managed to snag some rare couple time and, in a sudden rush of passion, I failed to insert my diaphragm.

...and your husband failed to use a condom. And you both failed the impulse-control test. Big time.

2. You compound your initial error in judgment with further acts of blithering stupidity:

The next morning, after getting my kids off to school, I called my ob/gyn to get a prescription for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent a pregnancy -- but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. As we're both in our forties, my husband and I had considered our family complete, and we weren't planning to have another child, which is why, as a rule, we use contraception. I wanted to make sure that our momentary lapse didn't result in a pregnancy.

In other words, you wanted to preserve the delicious thrill that comes from taking risks, while absolving yourself of the messy consequences that so often result. Doubtless this explains why, though you were sure you wanted no more children, you didn't have a tubal ligation as I did at 23 when it became obvious my husband wanted no more children. I'm sure this must also be why your husband didn't have a vasectomy.

3. Last time I checked, hope was not an effective family planning strategy:

The receptionist, however, informed me that my doctor did not prescribe Plan B. No reason given. Neither did my internist. The midwifery practice I had used could prescribe it, but not over the phone, and there were no more open appointments for the day. The weekend -- and the end of the 72-hour window -- was approaching.

But I needed to meet my kids' school bus and, as I was pretty much out of options -- short of soliciting random Virginia doctors out of the phone book -- I figured I'd take my chances and hope for the best.

Hmmm... have an unwanted abortion, or miss the kids' school bus one day? It's the choices in life that kill you. And after that, the rest of the day was completely shot. Letting your fingers do the walking is so time-consuming.

4. And they say denial is a river in Egypt:

Weeks later, the two drugstore pregnancy tests I took told a different story. Positive. I couldn't believe it.

5. I've always heard it said the best defense is a good offense. Don't get mad. Just blame someone else:

I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval.

Perhaps if you find the idea of having an abortion so upsetting, you should have thought ahead. This is what adults do:

In most states, the morning-after pill is available only by prescription. Also, it is important to note that some pharmacies may not stock the medication. Because the pill works best when taken quickly after unprotected intercourse, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages women to get an advance prescription — to have on hand, just in case.

6. And once again, a self-absorbed woman who can't be relied upon to take responsibility for her own reproductive destiny is pissed because the law wants to protect underaged girls... such as, perhaps one day, her own daughter:

My anger propelled me to get to the bottom of the story. It turns out that in December 2003, an FDA advisory committee, whose suggestions the agency usually follows, recommended that the drug be made available over the counter, or without a prescription. Nonetheless, in May 2004, the FDA top brass overruled the advisory panel and gave the thumbs-down to over-the-counter sales of Plan B, requesting more data on how girls younger than 16 could use it safely without a doctor's supervision.

Apparently, one of the concerns is that ready availability of Plan B could lead teenage girls to have premarital sex. Yet this concern -- valid or not -- wound up penalizing an over-the-hill married woman for having sex with her husband. Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

The truth of the matter is that the FDA was concerned about the medical effects of unsupervised, repeated use of Plan B by young girls who might misuse the drug. They were also worried because there have been no clinical trials on adolescents:

Advocates argue that women know better than to use the morning-after pill often, so there is no risk of over-use of this high-dose drug. Yet, in the label comprehension study submitted by Barr Labs to the FDA, a full one-third of adult women who read the instructions for Plan B did not understand that the morning-after pill is not to be used as a regular form of birth control. The number increased among those with low literacy and less than high school education. Over one-third did not understand the need to take the second pill at 12 hours after the first.6 The chairman of the FDA Advisory Committee that reviewed the comprehension study called it an “overall failure.”7 The maximum safe dose for levornorgestrel (the active ingredient in Plan B) has not been determined by scientific study, or the effects of overdose.8 It is unknown whether there is a maximum safe daily dose, monthly dose or yearly dose. The health risks for those who may use Plan B repeatedly (ranging in age from menarche—as young as 9—to women in their 50s) at one time or over years are unknown.

While advocates brush away concern over repeated use, stating that women will use it only in “emergencies,” experience shows that, when easily available, the morning-after pill is relied upon often. In fact, promoters of the morning-after pill describe “emergencies” as suspected contraceptive failure or “any time unprotected sexual intercourse occurs.”9 Repeat use is only discouraged based on its insufficient efficacy as a birth control method, not due to safety concerns.10 Dr. Ben-Maimon of Barr testified at an FDA Advisory Committee hearing: “Well, I think that there is no question that the data suggests that women who have emergency contraception use it more frequently.”11

I suppose it is understandable that a 42 year-old mother of two who hasn't figured out how to prevent conception, get an advance prescription, or use the Yellow Pages in a time-sensitive situation might not possess the critical thinking skills to see how children might fail to exercise good judgment if OTC morning after pills were available. Birth control pills are not dispensed except by prescription and under a doctor's supervision, yet a high-dose birth control pill is supposed to be available OTC to anyone - even children - who wants to buy it.

No problem - you have needs too. The hell with worrying about what a frightened or irresponsible child or a marginally literate woman might do to her own health. It's more important to protect affluent adults from the inconvenience of having to deal with their own irresponsibility.

To this day, I don't know why my doctors wouldn't prescribe Plan B -- whether it was because of moral opposition to contraception or out of fear of political protesters or just because they preferred not to go there.

In any event, they were also partly responsible for why I was stuck that Friday, and why I was ultimately forced to confront the decision to terminate my third pregnancy.

To this day, apparently you still have not figured out that it was a combination of your own cluelessness beforehand and laziness afterwards that caused your predicament.

Calling doctors, I felt like a pariah when I asked whether they provided termination services. Finally, I decided to check the Planned Parenthood Web site to see whether its clinics performed abortions. They did, but I learned that if I had the abortion in Virginia, the procedure would take two days because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which requires that you go in first for a day of counseling and then wait a day to think things over before returning to have the abortion. Because of work and the children, I couldn't afford two days off, so I opted to have the procedure done on a Saturday in downtown D.C. while my husband took the kids to the Smithsonian.

Ending a human life can be so inconvenient. Embarrassing too. Interesting how "the procedure" became "termination services" when you were shopping for doctors (something you didn't have time to do on Friday when it mattered) and "abortion" when you called Planned Parenthood.

9. ...and worst of all, they treated me just like some clueless teenager who'd been knocked up by her baby-daddy:

I arrived shortly before 10 a.m. in a bleak downpour, trusting that someone had recorded my appointment. I shuffled to the front door through a phalanx of umbrellaed protesters, who chanted loudly about Jesus and chided me not to go into that house of abortion.

All the while, I was thinking that if religion hadn't been allowed to seep into American politics the way it has, I wouldn't even be there. This all could have been stopped way before this baby was conceived if they had just let me have that damn pill.

After passing through the metal detector inside the building, I entered the Planned Parenthood waiting room; it was like the waiting room for a budget airline -- crammed full of people, of all races, and getting busier by the moment. I was by far the oldest person there (other than one girl's mom). The wait seemed endless. No one looked happy.

10. But every cloud has a silver lining. If all else fails, simply blame the BushReich:

The procedure itself took about five minutes. I finally walked out of the building at 4:30, 6 1/2 hours after I had arrived.

It was a decision I am sorry I had to make. It was awful, painful, sickening. But I feel that this administration gave me practically no choice but to have an unwanted abortion because the way it has politicized religion made it well-nigh impossible for me to get emergency contraception that would have prevented the pregnancy in the first place.

They prevented you from getting an advance prescription as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists?

The White House prevented you from discussing this in advance with your doctor?

The President's religion prevented you using birth control in the first place, or from having your own "Plan B" in case it failed? Perhaps it broke your dial-y finger so you couldn't contact another doctor that Friday? Oh yeah. The school bus was coming.

If only it had been the Clue Bus.

cross-posted at VC

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