On Wednesday April 17, between 9 and 10 pm, Joy of Resistance will feature an examination of the recent victory for women that has been called the greatest pro-active advance in reproductive justice since Roe v Wade. We will examine in depth, the 10 year campaign that resulted in the landmark April 6 decision by a Federal Judge to make the Morning After Pill available without any restrictions to women of all ages–thereby accomplishing the long-term goal of making it truly over-the-counter and eliminating the need for every woman to show an ID and go through a pharmacist in order to get it.
Our guests will be National Women’s Liberation organizers: Annie Tummino, lead plaintiff in the suit Tummino vs Hamburg; Allison Guttu, arrested in 2005, (along with 8 other women) for blocking entrances to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Brooke Eliazar-Macke, and Alex Leader, one of the campaign’s originators.
Our program will fill in the parts of the story that have been consistently left out of mainstream–and even feminist–media coverage, which focused only on the legal aspects of the victory. Consistently left out was a 10-year grassroots campaign that put pressure on the legal system and “created the space” for the Judge to hand down a positive verdict. This campaign included civil disobedience actions: the 2005 sit-in to block the entrance to the FDA in Washington DC, in which 9 women were arrested; over 5,000 women publicly defying the prescription requirement (which existed prior to 2006) by taking a pledge to “give the Morning After Pill to a friend if she needs it”–and then faxing their names to the FDA in a public challenge to the restrictions; a “flash mob” at a pharmacy, where, in a’direct action’ women placed the Morning After Pill directly on shelves in the Family Planning section.
The entire campaign was built on a grassroots strategy of holding consciousness raising sessions to find out how lack of access to the Morning After Pill actually affected women’s lives–and public speak-outs in which women told these stories.
The Morning After Pill is safe (according to the FDA’s own scientists), and if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex is an effective tool for preventing pregnancy. It works best within 24 hours, which is why the prescription requirement was a grave obstacle for women–especially since unprotected sex–i.e., a condom breaking–was more likely to happen on a weekend, making it is harder to find a doctor to write a prescription in time for the drug to be effective. As a result of the Tummino vs Hamburg suit, in 2006. the prescription requirement was lifted– in itself, an incredible win during the Bush Administration, when the fight for reproductive rights was being pushed seriously backward and there was an active anti-birth control movement.
But there was a compromise within this victory. MAP would be available only to women 18 and over (later changed to 17 and over) and it would be kept behind the counter, subject to approval by pharmacists, and all women would have to show ID to get it. NWL activists decided they could not live with this compromise and persisted in organizing and continuing the lawsuit to overturn it. The results they fought for were finally achieved on April 6.
Civil disobedience actions are historically linked to the fight for birth control–from Margaret Sanger being arrested for giving out information on birth control (then illegal) in the early 20th century, to Pat McGinness, arrested in the 1960’s for dispersing information on where to get an abortion (when that was illegal). The fight for the vote was also peppered with arrests. With so many laws restricting women over the centuries, defying unjust laws was and is a necessary part of feminists winning more freedom. NWL activists drew on, and were inspired by, this tradition, in their fight for the Morning After Pill.
The show will also include our regular “Feminist News Roundup.”