PETA's Offensive Solution to the Plan B Weight-Limit Crisis
Update (12/2/2013): John Seager, the president of Population Connection, has responded to PETA's campaign in an email: "It would be unfortunate if the importance of access to and consistent use of modern contraception gets lost in some wide-ranging discussion about everything under the sun, including the many positive benefits of a vegan diet."
Last week, when Mother Jones reported that some popular emergency contraceptive pills may not work in women weighing more than 176 pounds, many reporters and commentators immediately interpreted this as bad news for women who are "fat" or "obese."
And it wasn't just Rush Limbaugh making that assumption. Annie-Rose Strasser at ThinkProgress did the yeoman's work of rounding up media coverage that said the news affected "overweight" or "obese" women and found that CNN, NPR, The Guardian, and The Examiner were all offenders.
Reporters are wrong to suggest that the limits of Plan B and similar emergency contraceptives affect only women who are overweight. The CEO of HRA Pharma, a French company that is changing the labels on its emergency contraceptive pills to warn women of weight limits, told Mother Jones that the pill's efficacy is linked to weight—not body mass index, an obesity measure. In other words, the weight limit would equally affect a tall woman whose weight is in what doctors consider a healthy range and a shorter, overweight woman. Amanda Marcotte points out at RH Reality Check that a six-foot-plus woman who weighs 176 pounds will fall far short of fitting the medical definition of "obese."
Yet on Monday, a major advocacy group seized on the notion that women who can't effectively use Plan B are simply too fat. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a campaign Monday, pegged to Mother Jones's reporting, that encourages women to lose weight with vegan diets and "regain control over their reproductive lives." In a press release, PETA announced that the program, "Plan V" will promote a vegan diet as a "Plan B lifeline for overweight women."