Flash-mob protesters in a New York Duane Reade for over-the-counter morning-after pill access.
Credit: Maggie Freleng
NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–On March 26, over a dozen women joined a flash mob at a pharmacy in Union Square here to dramatize their support for unrestricted, over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill.
The protesters, associated with the organization National Women’s Liberation, discretely entered the store on 7th avenue and East 14th street, one-by-one, at approximately 6:30 p.m. and began yelling chants such as, “Out of the shadows and over the counter, ” and “Women will be irrepressible unless the morning-after pill is made accessible.”
The goal was not to protest the store—one of those in the city ‘s Duane Reade chain –but to make a video to send to President Barack Obama, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services.
During the 10-minute episode–as a couple of women with cell phones and flip cameras filmed–each protester placed a mock package of Plan B, a brand name emergency contraception, in the condoms section of the “feminine care” aisle.  Plan B costs approximately $44. See the National Women’s Liberation video of the action here.
The stunt was organized by the National Women’s Liberation, a Gainesville, Fla.-based group that began in the 1960s and has been involved in a lawsuit to win non-restricted access to the morning-after pill since 2005. 
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman, for the Eastern District of New York, the presiding judge in the case, is expected to file a decision by the end of March.
Tummino v. Hamburg began in January 2005 when the lawsuit claimed the plaintiffs had evidence that the Bush administration had pressured scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, based in Silver Spring, Md., right outside Washington, D.C., to enact an age limit on the pill for political reasons.
In December 2011, the Food and Drug Administration decided to eliminate the age restriction but, according to the National Women ‘s Liberation, in an unprecedented move, Health and Human Services blocked the change with Obama’s support.
“There is no medical reason for the age restriction,” Brooke Eliazar-Macke, co-chair of the National Women’s Liberation ‘s New York Chapter, told Women ‘s eNews.
Annie Tummino, a coordinator for National Women’s Liberation Coordinator and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, added that, “The denial of full access to the morning-after pill has been an outrageous political decision and wholly without scientific basis – under both the Bush and Obama administrations.”
In a 2011 statement, as an explanation for its decision, Health and Human Services said,
“However, the switch from prescription to over the counter for this product requires that we have enough evidence to show that those who use this medicine can understand the label and use the product appropriately.”
When Macke was a teenager she needed the morning-after pill, but age restrictions prevented her from buying it. Afraid to ask her mother, she instead made her own emergency contraception by taking her mother ‘s birth control.
This unsafe practice is a reality for many young women across the country who, due to the 17 and over age limit, are unable to get safe forms of emergency birth control without a prescription.
“Right now, President Obama and Health and Human Services are keeping a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy behind the counter–in spite of the FDA’s recommendations, ” Macke said.
Maggie Freleng is an editorial assistant for Women’s eNews; she lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Follow her on Twitter @dixiy89.


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