August 2, 2005
Pataki: the morning after
A busy day, so I didn’t spot this until I picked up the Times tonight. But worth commenting on, even belatedly:
Gov. George E. Pataki’s aides said last night that he would veto a bill to make the so-called morning-after pill available without a prescription, prompting outrage among abortion-rights advocates.
Kevin C. Quinn, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement that the governor’s main objection was that the bill did not include provisions that would prevent minors from having access to the drug.
Mr. Quinn said the governor would be willing to reconsider the measure if the Legislature drafted and passed a new bill that addressed his concerns about the drug’s availability to minors, as well as “other flaws.”
And of course we know exactly what they are:
The pill, which has been shown to be effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, has been at the center of a national debate. It is classified as a contraceptive and acts in most cases by preventing ovulation or fertilization. Because it may also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, it has also become a flashpoint in the debate over abortion.
Pataki has long supported abortion rights—one reason why he’s managed to get elected three times in Democratic New York. But with his eye on a possible presidential run in 2008, Pataki now has to start pandering to the religious right. And in doing so, he finds himself with fertilized egg on his face.
Pataki’s dilemma is simple. In the real world, the morning-after pill ought to be the pro-lifers’ friend: on one estimate, it could save 80,000 abortions every year in New York state. But the pill works in two ways: if given prior to ovulation, it prevents or delays the release of an egg from the ovary; if ovulation has already occurred, it helps prevent the fertilized egg from traveling down the fallopian tubes and implanting in the uterus. Wingnuts, in their parallel universe, see this second way as “abortion.” Never mind that fertilized eggs often fail to implant without any kind of medical intervention, or that pregnancy doesn’t even begin until the egg is implanted:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg implants into the uterine lining, not when the egg is fertilized. Forty to 60 percent of fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant in the uterus and are eliminated when a woman menstruates.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, emergency contraception is not effective if the woman is actually pregnant.
“Claiming contraception—especially emergency contraception—can cause abortion is one of the most common deceptions perpetuated by anti-choice extremists,” said Sarah A. Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
All of which leaves Pataki squirming—arguing against himself, against scientific fact, against common sense, and against women’s reproductive rights. All to satisfy a small minority of right-wing lunatics who care nothing about the health and welfare of women, or about the underlying science. What they really want is control, to turn back the clock to the glory days when, if you were with child, you were with child. Even if you actually were—or are—a child.
Unsurprisingly, most Americans find this repugnant, if not downright insane. As Pataki will discover if he runs in 2008.
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