I’ve talked about this before (“Why I volunteer for the president despite disagreeing with him”) but it bears repeating after a couple of incidents this week. First, President Obama said of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, “She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country.” Obama and Harris are friends, but it was inappropriate to comment on her appearance in a professional setting. Obama apologized Thursday, and that should be the end of it.
Second, and a much bigger deal, a federal judge ruled Friday that emergency contraception must be available without a prescription to people of all ages. Right now, a prescription is required for ages 16 and younger. However, as the judge made quite clear in his ruling, and as has been obvious for a while, that requirement has no basis in medical fact. In 2011, the FDA recommended that EC be available to all regardless of age, and in an unprecedented move, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled it.
I have never been so angry with the administration as I was that day. It was a political decision that was straight out of the Bush administration’s MO. I had voted for Obama because he had promised to make decisions based on science, and he broke that promise. Emergency contraception is safer than aspirin. Just because some people may be uncomfortable with a 13-year-old taking EC doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to.
I was hopeful that after the judge ruled, the Obama administration would accept the decision. However, it doesn’t sound promising; press secretary Jay Carney said, “We do not have enough evidence to show that all those who could use this medicine, Plan B, can understand the label and use the product appropriately. It could be dangerous if misused.”
No. It really couldn’t. I’m disappointed that at first blush, the administration is doubling down.
Obama has still done far and away more good for women than harm. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He rescinded the global gag rule. He appointed Hillary Clinton secretary of state and two women to the Supreme Court. He passed the Affordable Care Act and mandated copay-free birth control. He supports marriage equality. He repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. When the DREAM Act couldn’t get through Congress, he issued an executive order making it easier for undocumented young people to stay in the country.
The list could go on. No, obviously Obama isn’t perfect. He can do and say sexist things — like most of us. Fortunately, when that’s pointed out to him, he’s willing to apologize and learn.
I hold out hope that like his stance on marriage equality, Obama will “evolve” to understand young people’s sexuality isn’t scary and they should have every tool available to be safe and healthy.