From the New York Times (December 7, 2011). Boldface mine, for the parts that feel like getting kicked right in the stomach.
WASHINGTON — For the first time ever, the Health and Human Services secretary publicly overruled the Food and Drug Administration, refusing Wednesday to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter, including to young teenagers. The decision avoided what could have been a bruising political battle over parental control and contraception during a presidential election season.
The contraceptive pill, called Plan B One-Step, has been available without a prescription to women 17 and older, but those 16 and younger have needed a prescription — and they still will because of the decision by the health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. If taken soon after unprotected sex, the pill halves the chances of a pregnancy.
Although Ms. Sebelius had the legal authority to overrule the F.D.A., no health secretary had ever publicly done so, an F.D.A. spokeswoman said… .
Ms. Sebelius’s decision on an emotional issue that touches on parental involvement in birth control for teenage children is likely to have powerful political reverberations. Scientists and politicians have been at odds for years over whether to make Plan B available over the counter. The Bush administration at first rejected over-the-counter availability for women of any age, but ultimately allowed it for women 18 and older. After a federal court order, the Obama administration lowered the age to 17 in 2009.
With Ms. Sebelius’s decision on Wednesday, the Obama administration is taking a more socially conservative stance on Plan B, one closer to that of the Bush administration than to many of its own liberal supporters … .
For Dr. [Margaret] Hamburg [head of the Food and Drug Administration], the studies and experts all agreed that young women would benefit from having easy access to the pill and did not need the intervention of a health care provider. The agency’s scientists, she wrote,determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted disease.
… Dr. Susan Wood, a former F.D.A. assistant commissioner who resigned in 2005 to protest the Bush administration’s handling of Plan B, said that there were many drugs available over the counter that had not been studied in pre-adolescents and that were far more dangerous to them.
Acetaminophen can be fatal, but it’s available to everyone,Dr. Wood noted.So why are contraceptives singled out every single time when they’re actually far safer than what’s already out there?
… The American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have endorsed over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. Plan B was approved in 1999 as a prescription-only product, and it initially had few sales. In 2003, advocates filed an application for over-the-counter sales.
An expert advisory committee recommended approval, and scientists within the Food and Drug Administration unanimously supported that recommendation. Their rationale was simple: women can decide on their own when they need to take it, the drug is effective and its risks are minimal — particularly compared with pregnancy. But in a highly unusual move, top agency officials rejected the application because, some said later, they feared being fired if they approved it.
The agency delayed reconsideration for years despite promises by top Bush administration officials to do so. Then in 2006, the Bush administration allowed over-the-counter sales to women 18 and older but required a prescription for those 17 and younger. In 2009, the F.D.A. lowered the easy-access age limit by a year after a federal judge ruled that its decision had been driven by politics and not science.
Progressive Pro-Choice Peace President Barack Hussein Obama would like the Washington Post to know that he didn’t do it. He didn’t do it, but he dug it.
President Obama said Thursday that he supports his administration’s decision to block unrestricted sale of the morning-after pill to people younger than 17, a move that dismayed women’s advocates when it was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Sebelius said Wednesday that she had overruled the Food and Drug Administration, which had decided to make the contraceptive available to people of all ages directly off drugstore and supermarket shelves, without a prescription.
Obama said he did not get involved in the decision to require a prescription for girls 16 and under before it was announced, leaving it up to Sebelius.
But, he said:I will say this. As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.
And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old, going to a drug store, should be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteries,purchase a powerful drug to stop a pregnancy, Obama said.I think most parents would probably feel the same way.
Especially parents who are trying to win a political election. I wonder if they bothered to ask an 11-year-old girl, who is afraid of becoming pregnant, how she feels about it?
About 10 percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age. It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age,Sebelius said.
Therefore, the state should ensure that the youngest girls of reproductive age are forced to get pregnant.
Back in the New York Times:
Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the Obama administration may be trying to assuage Catholic bishops and others angered in recent weeks by a decision requiring that health insurance programs created under the new health reform law offer contraceptives for free.
I think they’re trying to create some political balance,Mr. Ornstein said.
Yes, a balance. Marvel as President Obama, liberal voters and the Catholic Bishops defy gravity in a spectacular balancing act! Right on top of a terrified 12 year old girl’s body.
This decision is inexcusable. And what makes it even worse is having to watch to the newsmedia calmly discussing the political calculations that went into it, as if what really mattered here had nothing to do with the lives affected by this decision, with the girls who have to live in fear of an unwanted pregnancy because their access to basic medical treatments has been regimented and sacrificed for the sake of a Democratic politician’s political prospects — as if what was really worth discussing was whether that palavering creep and the rest of his administration will be able to effectively exploit this regulatory backstab to increase their chances at holding onto political power for another four years. There are no English words for just how contemptible this shameful display is.