by Hannah McCartney
Crowd-sourced maps will show where and who is illegally limiting emergency contraceptives
The right to obtain emergency contraception is one that was only recently granted to all women of child-bearing age, marking a huge national victory for women's health rights over conservative political agendas. But now that's it's available over-the-counter, is it really easy to access? According to the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project, it depends on where and who you are. The project, a newly-formed coalition comprising a number of alternative news publications under the umbrella of the Association of Alternative News Media (AAN) and the Media Consortium, part of a larger initiative to "study how independent news organizations can work together to create a collective impact," according to AAN.The newest component of the project — "Where Is Your Plan B?" — is a website that uses crowd-sourced data to monitor the availability of emergency contraceptives across the country. News outlets collaborating on the project include Austin Chronicle, Bitch Magazine, In These Times, LEO Weekly, Making Contact/National Radio Project, Ms. Magazine, People*Power*Media, Portland Mercury, Public News Service and Santa Fe Reporter. Once the site gets a little more press, it will start publishing detailed maps documenting which pharmacies are readily providing Plan B, where it might be illegally restricted and where it's available but possibly made more difficult to obtain by roadblocks. For now, you can also find a thorough collection of investigative works from the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project from its participating news outlets, chronicling everything from how Native American women are being actively denied fair access to Plan B and women's access to abortion in New Mexico. Plan B One-Step was first approved in July 2009 for use without a prescription for women only ages 17 or older; women younger than 17 were previously required to obtain a prescription. In April, Judge Edward Korman ruled that the age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception were "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." His ruling prompted the FDA to announce Plan B One-Step's availability to women 15 and older without a prescription, which was in June amended to include women of child-bearing age. Many women's health advocates have expressed concerns about how pharmacies are restricting accessibility to the drug, such as asking for identification even though the FDA doesn't require it or keeping the drug locked up or behind a counter, which could be a daunting barrier for some young girls, making an already unpleasant experience worse. Commonly known as the "morning-after pill," Plan B is intended to be used when other methods of contraception fail. In extreme cases, it can be a rape victim's only option to prevent becoming pregnant. The drug, which contains powerful levels of hormones found in some types of birth control pills, is more effective the more quickly it's taken after having unprotected sex, particularly within three days. That means having to obtain a prescription could null the effects of the pill or render it ineffective for a young woman struggling to get a doctor's appointment. A research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2012 found that of several pharmacies called in five different cities, 20 percent did not have emergency contraception in stock on the same day the patient called. Visit your local pharmacy and fill out the form here. Where is Your Plan B? from altweeklies on Vimeo.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:43 PM | Permalink
City officials frame budget debate with two choices, but there are more options
Councilman Chris Seelbach says Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials are wrong to claim Plan B,
which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make other cuts to
city services, is the only solution to the city’s budget deficit if the
parking plan isn’t implemented.Seelbach and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called for a
special City Council session on April 4 to get the city administration
to answer questions about alternatives to laying off cops or
Seelbach, who opposes the parking plan, has pointed to
casino revenue and cuts in programs ranked poorly by the city’s
priority-driven budgeting process as two potential alternatives to
eliminating at least 269 public safety positions.
“We spent $100,000 on the priority-based budget process to
give the public and a diverse cross-section of the entire city input on
what the Council and the city should be spending money on,” Seelbach
says. “We should be using those results when deciding where we should
In the midst of the parking plan debate, Seelbach
proposed Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenue to
help balance the deficit, cut $5 million based on the results of the
city's priority-driven budgeting process and put two charter amendments
on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month
trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent.
At a press conference on March 28, Mayor Mark Mallory
implied the plan is unworkable because it relies on November ballot
initiatives. “We don’t have until November,” he said.
But Seelbach says City Council could pass a stub budget that
would sustain the city financially until the ballot measures are voted
on. If both the measures are rejected, City Council would then be
required to make further adjustments to balance the budget.
Even without the ballot initiatives, Seelbach’s
suggestions for casino revenue and cuts based on the priority-driven
budgeting process could be approved by City Council to avoid at least
two-thirds of the $18.1 million in public safety cuts outlined by
Dohoney’s Plan B memo. Seelbach says further cuts could be made through
the budget-driven priority process if necessary.
“It worries me that these threats of 344 layoffs is just
an attempt to sell the parking plan,” he says. “Every option should be
on the table.”
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that City Council could choose its own cuts and use other revenue, including casino revenue, to balance the budget.
“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” she
said. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another
In the 2013 mayoral race, the threat of laying off cops
and firefighters has played a prominent role in the parking plan debate.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley has repeatedly said the
threats are “the boy crying wolf.” On Friday, he proposed his own budget plan that he says would avoid layoffs, but critics say Cranley’s casino revenue estimates ignore recent trends.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another Democratic candidate
for mayor, said the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters if
the parking plan doesn’t go into effect, echoing earlier comments she
made in a blog post Sunday.
On March 6, City Council passed a plan that would lease
the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Development Authority
to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund
development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27). But the plan is being held up by a referendum effort after a ruling from Judge Robert Winkler on March 28.