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Plan B: Without parental notification?

Posted by Joanna Weiss April 30, 2013 10:35 PM

plan b.jpg

Should 15-year-olds have unfettered access to a "morning-after" pill? Will it encourage them to have unprotected sex? Or is it a nod to public health, science, and fairness?

On Tuesday, the FDA announced that it would allow Plan B One-Step, a brand of emergency contraception, to be sold over the counter to customers 15 and older, provided they show proof of age. This was the latest move in a long and winding debate. In 2011, the federal agency wanted to make the morning after pill available to all. The Obama administration stepped in and overruled. Last month, a federal court overruled the administration.

But if this latest FDA move is a compromise, it doesn't satisfy everyone. Advocates say Plan B is safe and IDs are an unfair burden. Opponents -- and some squeamish moms and dads, including President Obama -- say parents should know if their young daughters are taking powerful drugs. Where do you stand? Read some opinions below, then add your thoughts to the comments or tweet at the hashtag #PlanB.

What message are we sending to girls?

Maureen Vacca.jpgThere's no follow up, there’s no caring adult engaged in that girl's life. The pharmacist, the doctor and the parent are all eliminated from that scenario. And if the girl’s 15 and she’ s taking the morning after pill, she needs somebody to give her the right education: How to value yourself, how to say no to that boy, how to read your own to use contraception that prevents STDs. This encourages sex without condoms. Where does that bring you?
Maureen Vacca
Director of public policy, Mass Family Institute

What if girls have no adults to count on?

The reality is, we have young people who are not in families where that kind of connection exists between them and parents, or who don’t have an adult in their lives who is capable of providing that in some way. I don’t think it’s fair to to say, because the adults in your life have failed you, you’re going to have to risk pregnancy -- and risk having to go forward with a pregnancy -- because it’s too late or too long...That just seems like a really unfair bargain.
Patricia Quinn, executive director
Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy

Trust teens to use it correctly

Martha_Walz.jpgScience backs lifting the age restriction on over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. Multiple studies have shown that teens are as likely as adults to use it correctly and that both groups report little if any difficulty. Research also shows teens understand that emergency contraception is not intended for ongoing, regular use and the rates of unprotected sex do not increase when they have easier access to emergency birth control.
Marty Walz, president
Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts

Experimenting on our daughters?

Statistics show that a large number of sexually active minor girls have partners who are legal adults, many in their twenties. This is statutory rape. Giving the girl "emergency contraception" helps cover up statutory rape, allowing these older men to continue to exploit young girls. Also, how dangerous are heavy doses of hormones for girls who are not full-grown? Similar hormones in "hormone replacement" pills, which their grandmothers took for years in much smaller doses, are now considered unsafe. How many years will it take for us to recognize the side effects of experimenting on our daughters?
Anne Fox, President
Massachusetts Citizens for Life

Treating girls differently from boys?

A potential compromise?

A more reasonable approach would be to label the drug safe for use without a prescription but for states to pass laws requiring it be kept behind the pharmacist’s counter. That alone would convey to teenage girls that it’s a serious step to be taken only in an emergency, and ensure that a pharmacist is available to answer any questions.
Boston Globe editorial
January 16, 2012

Too young to do what?

Are you voting today? Again? (Sigh.)

Posted by Joanna Weiss April 29, 2013 12:40 PM

alone in voting booth.jpg

Yes, it's election day. Again. It seems like only yesterday that we were choosing between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown. And, just before that, between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown.

Now, the ballot booths are back: for local races, a state Senate race in Boston, and the hard-fought primaries for Massachusetts' other U.S. Senate seat. This is big: Five candidates vying for one of the most important political jobs in the nation. But turnout was expected to be low, even before the Boston Marathon bombing crowded out campaign news. Now, the projections are abysmal. It seems the birthplace of American democracy has reached its limit for voter excitement.

Are you suffering from election fatigue? Do you blame the candidates, the calendar, or the news cycle? Are you voting out of passion or a sense of obligation? Plotting your strategy? Or planning to stay home? Weigh in below in the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonVote.

The problem's not the candidates. It's us.

walkera.png.jpgPerhaps a tough winter contributed. Maybe people were worried about the sequester, or the prospects for the Red Sox. My pet notion: Even in an area that so loves politics, we are suffering from just a bit of campaign fatigue. Even I am suffering from it, and I get paid to care about politics...That is too bad for a slate of candidates that has been unfairly maligned as boring. It really isn’t their fault that we could use a breather.
Adrian Walker, @Adrian_Walker
Globe columnist

As of Monday, no buildup

Sick of elections? Blame the Democrats.

vennochi.png.jpgThose suffering from political sensory overload can blame Massachusetts Democrats. They wanted to stop Republican Governor Mitt Romney from naming a successor if John Kerry won the White House in 2004. So Beacon Hill Democrats changed state law to establish a special election process to fill a vacancy. The new law didn’t stop Scott Brown from beating Martha Coakley, but it doomed voters to another special election once Kerry resigned to become secretary of state.
Joan Vennochi, @Joan_Vennochi
Globe columnist

So over it


Hidden upside of a low-turnout election

Will strategic voters make mischief?

Peter N. Ubertaccio pic.jpgThere'll be little in the way of strategic voting today. Open primaries--where Democrats can vote in the Republican primary and vice versa--are more susceptible to strategic voting. Massachusetts primaries aren't that open. Unenrolled voters can choose which ballot they want today and could attempt to make mischief but they aren't typically motivated to do so. And because both primaries today are competitive, partisans on either side had little reason to change their registration to unenrolled to mess about in the other party.
Peter Ubertaccio, @ProfessorU

Don't care? Don't vote.

jacoby.png.jpgHaving the right to vote doesn’t mean you have a duty to vote. And though it may be unfashionable to say so, there can be perfectly sound reasons not to go to the polls. Why should people who have no interest in politics and pay no attention to candidates be encouraged to mark a ballot? If you don’t know enough or care enough to cast an informed vote, it’s not a mortal sin – or even a venial one – to stay home on Election Day.
Jeff Jacoby, @Jeff_Jacoby
Globe columnist

Reactions to Dzhokhar: Hatred, anger...empathy?

Posted by Joanna Weiss April 24, 2013 10:43 AM

dzhokhar carnation.jpg

Photos show him dropping a bomb near the Boston Marathon finish line. He allegedly killed a police officer in cold blood. But while his older brother fit the stereotype of the dangerous extremist -- distant, cruel, driven by ideology -- 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had friends. Went to prom. Was considered "a nice guy."

The dissonance has sent some people deep into fringe territory. There's a #FreeJahar movement on Twitter and a Facebook group claiming his innocence. But some others, devastated by the bombings, have nonetheless confessed to mixed emotions this week: to wondering how Tsarnaev felt, what he thought, as he cowered in a boat in a Watertown backyard.

Expressing those ideas can be a clumsy thing, as singer Amanda Palmer now admits about her "poem for dzhokhar," a rambling, widely-slammed free verse about boats, iPhones, and Vietnamese spring rolls. Some recoil at the idea of equating him with a victim. But is empathy different from sympathy? Does it make us hopelessly naive, or simply human?

What went through your mind this week? Tell us in the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonEmpathy and @BostonComment.

Imagining his story is part of the tragedy, too

Students who have spoken in the media and to each other are unable to accept the simplistic notion of Tsarnaev as the symbol of evil. They have struggled with the complexities of who this person was: “He wasn’t one of them; he was one of us”; “He’s only 19; he must be so scared”...As we all struggle to come to terms with losses of life and innocence in the carnage of the past week, Rindge kids remind us that even this alleged perpetrator’s journey is part of the tragedy.
Betsy McAlister Groves, mother of Rindge and Latin students
Letter to the Globe

Reconciling terror suspect with friend

zolan mug.jpgThe Dzhokhar I knew was a young man who spent all night looking in his car for a new phone I clumsily lost. He left work early just to help me retrace my steps...He was a captain on the Cambridge Ringe and Latin wrestling team, he was in the National Honor Society, he earned a scholarship to a four-year university. It seemed no one ever had a problem with Dzhokhar....But it seems the young man I knew is gone.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Globe co-op
Attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin with Dzhokhar

Getting fed up with the excuses

Let's be serious: Dzhokhar is not a victim like his victims. The language used in these articles makes him sound like a well-meaning addict or someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's neither. Dzhokhar is charged with planting bombs that maimed and killed scores of people. If it was his brother's idea, Dzhokhar carried it out along with him.
Joel Breuklander
The Atlantic

Wanting to believe he was brainwashed

tiziana dearing mug.jpgI formed a story about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday. I convinced myself it was all his brother’s doing and influence. That he followed along and didn’t really understand what he was doing....When I told a male friend over lunch earlier this week that I felt a little motherly worry for the young man, he said, “I think to place a bomb like that, around kids, blow people up and then go back to your dorm room and back to school for two days… that’s just crazy.” I felt a chill. He’s right. How can I be worried about someone like that?
Tiziana Dearing
WBUR's Cognoscenti

Writing follow-up free verse

amanda palmer mug.jpgmay you find a way to feel empathy towards everyone.
yes, everyone.
the moment you choose to be empathetic only towards your family, only towards your friends, only towards your immediate neighbors, only the people who look like you, or think like you…
that is the moment you fail to see that we are all connected, that we are all capable of feeling pain and all – every one of us – capable of empathy.
for anyone.
Amanda Palmer, singer/songwriter

Or feeling no conflict at all

The Boston lockdown: safety or overkill?

Posted by Joanna Weiss April 22, 2013 12:39 PM


Boston strong, yes. And, on Friday, Boston stuck. You may have been among the thousands who were urged to stay in place during the manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Or you may have watched from afar as the city fell into uncomfortable silence: Streets empty and businesses shuttered. (Except for Dunkin' Donuts. Of course.)

The lockdown was inconvenient for many. Awkward for some. And when Tsarnaev was finally found -- hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard -- the universe rang with questions. Given that he'd escaped on foot, did we really need to shut down all of Roslindale? Or, given the fear that he might have a bomb, was this an act of caution that could have saved lives?

Post your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet us at the hashtag #Bostonlockdown. In the meantime, have a look at some reactions:

If it was safe enough for Dunkin' Donuts workers...

harmon.png.jpgFriday’s lockdown was more than an abundance of caution. It was an overreaction. Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost to the local economy. Yet authorities urged some Dunkin’ Donuts stores to remain open for the convenience of officers while Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments and hundreds of other businesses, large and small, shut down. If Dunkin’ Donuts workers could safely venture forth to satisfy Munchkins runs, then people outside of Watertown and abutting communities could have gone to work.
Lawrence Harmon
Globe columnist

A savvy public, leaving space for police

si.jpgThere’s a difference between paralysis and stillness. Stillness is deliberate. It was a tool – a tactical move. The police did not order us to stay in our houses – they requested it, and we complied, not because we were terrorized and not because we were sheep to the police state, but because we knew that in doing so, we left the police and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the only pieces out on the board. We wanted him captured. For us, staying indoors on Friday was no different from staying in during a winter storm so that the snowplows could clear the streets. We were giving the professionals room to work.
S.I. Rosenbaum, @sirosenbaum
Desperation Device

Was a lockdown what terrorists wanted?

Under what circumstances is it appropriate to allow the abberrant behavior of a suspected killer on the loose to bring a region to a standstill? Will the prospect of paralyzing the public and its economy empower other deviants to engage in similar heinous crimes?
Steve Kramer, Medfield
Letter to the Globe

Or was it the perfect message for terrorists?


The economy will survive

A lot of people are concerned about the cost to the
city of Boston that the lockdown incurred. Two points: first, we have
severe weather incidents every year with similar effects on business, and
our economy doesn’t collapse; second, pretty much every single last person
in the greater Boston area would personally sign the check paid out of our
taxes to see the marathon bombers taken off the streets. We wanted this.
Melissa Elliott, @0xabad1dea
0xabad1dea on Tumblr

All's well that ends well?


About Boston.comment

weiss.jpegBoston.comment is an exchange for ideas about Boston and beyond, brought to you by the Boston Globe editorial page and edited by Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. We're the sponsor of's #LabDebates and the creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure mayoral game.

Our producer is Alex Pearlman, with contributions (and sea monsters) from Noah Guiney. To join the conversation, post a comment, tweet with our daily hashtag, or follow us on Twitter @BostonComment.

A note on comments: Be honest, be open, be polite. And be warned: Personal attacks will be removed.

Top comment

The US has become so PC that's I'm afraid it;s time to say goodbye to yet another tradition! This used to be a fun parade, filled with good intentions and laughter.
just for luck


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