In the last few years, the topics of sexuality, birth control, and abortion have been making headlines in the mainstream media. Fiercely debated, hotly contested and often misrepresented, facts about women’s health are so often obscured by moral judgment and urban legend. This past Thursday, the New York Times front page featured an article entitled “Ready Access to Plan B Pills in City Schools,” written by Anemona Hartocollis and Michaelle Bond. The piece reports on the availability of the Plan B One-Step pill, an emergency contraceptive, in New York City schools in the wake of the Obama administration’s allowance of over the counter availability of the pill to women of any age (well, sort of). While the article does not outright condemn the federal decision or New York City’s preexisting provision that students in high school can have access to emergency contraception, its ostensibly neutral tone on the issue is fraught with hints of shaming young women who utilize this option and the institutions that make it available.
While relaying important information about these policies, the article problematically plays into the media shock value of teenage sex and the possibility of schools condoning such activity. Since the piece highlights the rebellion of young women throughout, the authors distort the reality of why Plan B and other birth control methods need to be available in schools, and instead emphasize a desire to protect deviant young women. For example, the article briefly mentions the fact that the majority of research has demonstrated that emergency contraception does not increase rates of sexual activity, but taking up far more space in the piece are the opinions of others who believe that emergency contraception does increase “risky” sexual behavior, including a single teenage girl who thought teens at her school were having more sex since Plan B became available.