NYTimes, WSJ Fail to Quote Critics of Plan B in Story About Obama Backing Off Appeal

Yesterday evening the Obama administration announced it would back down from plans to fight a federal judge's ruling that the Plan B emergency contraception pill must be made available over-the-counter and without age restriction in U.S. pharmacies. Previously the FDA permitted over-the-counter sales to girls and women aged 17 and older and the Obama administration wished to revise that age requirement down to 15.

But in reporting the story, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal omitted any objection from pro-life or parents rights groups, even as they reported the reactions of abortion rights advocates. "We are pleased that women should soon be able to buy Plan B One-Step without the arbitrary restrictions that kept it locked behind the pharmacy counter when they needed it most urgently," the Journal's Jennifer Corbett Dooren quoted Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights at the close of her 11-paragraph, page A3 story for Tuesday's print edition.

For its part, the New York Times placed the development in a June 11 front-page story headlined, "Obama to Drop Limit on Selling a Contraceptive." Times staffers Michael D. Shear and Pam Belluck noted that "[w]omen's reproductive rights groups... cautiously hailed the decision as a significant moment in the battle over reproductive rights but said they remained skeptical until they saw details about how the change will be put into practice."

Two paragraphs later, Shear and Belluck quoted Partnership for Civil Justice Fund executive director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard sounding a militant note saying, "We will not rest in this fight until the morning-after pill is made available without delay and obstruction." Next came the reaction from Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. "This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control an a historic moment for women's health and equity," the Obama-boosting daughter of the late Gov. Ann Richards (D-Texas) gushed.

While Shear and Belluck admitted that "The decision is certain to anger abortion rights opponents, who oppose letting young girls have access to the drug without the involvement of a parent or a doctor," but they failed to find such an advocate to quote directly. Additionally, you'll notice the labeling pits such advocates in a negative light as "oppos[ing]" a right for "young girls" rather than advocating parental rights for parents of minor girls.

What's more, both the Journal and the Times omitted any mention of the serious side effects attendant to using Plan B OneStep, even though such information is readily available from the drug maker's website. From the Plan B FAQ page:

When taken as directed, Plan B One-Step® is safe for women. Some women will have mild temporary side effects that include:

Changes in your period
Lower abdominal pain
Breast tenderness

These are similar to the side effects that some women have when taking regular birth control pills. Some women taking Plan B One-Step® will have menstrual changes such as spotting or bleeding before their next period. Some women may have a heavier or lighter next period, or a period that is early or late. If your period is more than a week late, you should get a pregnancy test.

If you should experience severe abdominal pain, you may have an ectopic pregnancy and should get immediate medical attention.

You don't have to be pro-life or even a social conservative to think that maybe, just maybe, it's a bad idea for pre-teen and teenage girls to use this drug without their parents knowing about it. You just, apparently, have to be a liberal journalist for a major newspaper in New York City.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.