Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – the Obama administration’s top health official stopped the Plan B morning after pill from being allowed to be sold over the counter. Her decision overrules scientists at the Food and Drug Administration.
At the moment, the only people who can purchase the Plan B pill are those aged 17 and older – and can prove it – and who have a prescription.
Sebelius said, per the December 8th foxnews.com article, “Block of OTC morning-after pill sparks debate”, that “she was worried about confusing 11-year-olds.”
For over ten years, the debate about making access to pills for pregnancy prevention easier has raged on. However, Sebelius’s decision comes with election year consequences. Per the article, her decision caught women’s health advocates off guard. This faction is considered a major part of President Barack Obama’s Democratic base. In addition, many major doctors’ groups disagreed with the decision, arguing that over-the-counter sales could lower the nation’s large number of unplanned pregnancies.
Obama spokesman Nick Papas was quoted as saying: “Secretary Sebelius took this action after careful review. As the secretary has stated, Plan B will remain available to all women who need it, and the president supports the secretary’s decision.”
Dr. Robert Block of the American Academy of Pediatrics was quoted as saying: “Sebelius’ decision is “medically inexplicable.”
In addition, AAP member Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington was quoted as saying of the decision: “I don’t think 11-year-olds go into Rite Aid and buy anything, much less a single pill that costs about $50.”
She was also quoted as saying, in regard to making Plan B pills available OTC that they would help those “who have made a serious error in having unprotected sex and should be able to respond to that kind of lack of judgment in a way that is timely as opposed to having to suffer permanent consequences.”
However, conservatives praised the decision.
Wendy Wright, an evangelical activist who helped lead the opposition to Plan B was quoted as saying: “Take the politics out of it and it’s a decision that reflect the concerns that many parents in America have.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa was quoted as saying: “This is the right decision based on a lack of scientific evidence that it’s safe to allow minors access to this drug, much less over-the-counter.”
FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg was quoted as having written: “There is adequate and reasonable, well-supported and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.”
The emergency contraception battle will continue to rage on. Per the article, in 2009, a federal judge said the FDA had allowed politics, versus science, drive its initial behind-the-counter age restrictions and said it should reconsider. At a hearing scheduled in federal court in New York next week, the Center for Reproductive Rights will argue the FDA should be held in contempt.
Use of the Plan B pill within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or merely not using a contraception method reduces the chances of becoming pregnant by nearly 90 percent.