Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Morning-After Pill – Politics vs. Science

Once again, politics appears to have trumped science.

An expert scientific panel of the FDA recommended recently that the morning-after pill, called Plan B, be made available to all women without a prescription. The FDA argues that younger women would benefit from easy access to Plan B, and that the pill is both safe and effective. But the current Health and Human Services secretary, Ms. Kathleen Sebelius, used her legal authority to overrule the FDA, saying that the drug has never been tested and proven to be safe in girls as young as 11 and that girls that age may not understand how to use the pills.

Huh? Countless drugs that have not been tested specifically in children and that can have severe side effects if misused are available over-the-counter. Besides, there’s no evidence that adolescent girls are unable to read and understand the instructions on a drug’s label. If that were true, many drugs currently available over the counter should be pulled from the shelves.

The Plan B pill has always been embroiled in politics – the politics of contraception and birth control. The Bush administration initially resisted approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B, but then justified over-the-counter sales in 2006 by limiting sales to women 18 and older. The age was reduced to 17 in 2009 when a judge ruled that the age limitation of 18 was ruled by politics, not science.

The Health and Human Services secretary is a political appointee. President Obama later publicly backed Ms. Sebelius’s position. Is it possible that Ms. Sebelius’s decision was influenced by a desire not to anger social conservatives during an election year? You decide.

No comments: