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11.20.09 - Annie Tummino, 26, works at Realbirth, a childbirth education and post-partum support center in New York City. She is also chair of the Women’s Liberation Birth Control Project, and has been a coordinator with the Morning-after Pill Conspiracy since 2004. She is a plaintiff in the Center’s case against the Food and Drug Administration. The Center is suing the FDA for failure to make the morning-after pill available over-the-counter to women of all ages.
Dara Mayers interviews Annie Tummino.
Q: What is the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy?
A.T.: MAPC is a coalition of feminist organizations that have been leading the grassroots charge to make the morning-after pill available over-the-counter for all women. 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. It is a strategy that was used by women fighting for abortion rights during the women’s liberation movement.
Q: Why is it important that the morning-after pill is made available without a prescription?
A.T.: Having to get a prescription is unnecessary and places a lot of obstacles in women’s paths. The morning-after pill is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after sex. Getting to a doctor for an appointment, then getting to a pharmacy and filling the prescription, is often impossible to do so quickly. Also, there is a great extra expense – having to take time off from work, and paying for a doctor’s visit is an unnecessary burden on women. The morning-after pill is perfectly safe.
Q: Why isn’t it sold over-the-counter if it is safe?
A.T.: Because there is unprecedented pressure from the White House and Bush administration. They really are on an anti-birth control campaign. What you are seeing is attacks on birth control in general—abstinence only education, state legislation to allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense the pill. What the lawsuit is going to help show is how the Food and Drug Administration has not been following normal procedure at all when it comes to this lawsuit. It is holding the morning-after pill application to a much higher standard than any other application.
Q: How do you feel about over-the-counter status, but with an age restriction?
A.T.: When I was 15 or 16 I didn’t have access to a car, so it was more difficult to get to a doctor and to get a prescription at that time. Young women should not be forced to have to deal with unintended pregnancy because they have been denied access to a perfectly safe form of birth control. Especially when the FDA’s own panel of experts said that it is safe and appropriate for teens, and should be sold over-the-counter!
Also, if it was available with an age restriction that would have negative consequences for all women. It would create layer of bureaucratic red tape, and put control in pharmacist’s hands, not in women’s hands. As you know, we’ve seen problems with pharmacists denying women birth control.
And, on more basic level, we think that if you are old enough to get pregnant you are old enough to decide that you don’t want to be pregnant. That’s pretty much our bottom line. We stand in solidarity with young women who need this just as much as we do.
Q: Why are you so passionate about this issue?
A.T.: Access to birth control is really fundamental part of our freedom as women. This is really a historical opportunity to make a big step forward for women. If we get full over-the-counter status it could be the biggest step forward for us since winning abortion rights.