Obama Administration Seeks Compromise in Heated Emergency Contraceptive Debate

Monday, May 06, 2013

Morning-after pills will soon become available to a larger segment of American teenagers. However, the Obama administration cannot seem to make up its mind about who exactly will gain access to the contraceptive.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it had approved the sale of the Plan B One-Step pill without a prescription to females age 15 and older. The FDA decision will also make the contraceptive available on drugstore shelves, instead of requiring pharmacies to keep it locked up behind store counters.


Up until now, the morning-after pill was available without a doctor’s order only to those 17 and older.


The FDA’s decision comes with the blessing of President Barack Obama, who had previously objected to a ruling issued by federal judge Edward R. Korman in early April, that ordered the FDA to make the pill available for all ages without a prescription.


Korman’s order was supposed to take effect in 30 days. But the U.S. Department of Justice has appealed the judge’s ruling.  The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Obama’s administration. In December 2011, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, presumably because of a lack of data proving it would be safe.


Many saw this decision merely as a political move by the Obama administration to protect vulnerable Democratic candidates in an election year. 


In what The New York Times called “a scathing opinion,” Judge Korman accused the Obama administration of putting politics before science in restricting access to the drug.


The appeal puts the administration on the same side as anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. As such, it subjected the Obama White House to criticism from pro-choice groups who claim Plan B has been proven safe and effective for all ages.


The FDA’s most recent decision to lower the age at which woman may purchase the emergency contraceptive to 15 years of age and older appears to be a compromise that the Obama administration is implementing in an attempt to appease both sides of this politically charged debate. 

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Aaron Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

FDA Approves Plan B One-Step Emergency Contraceptive without a Prescription for Women 15 Years of Age and Older (Food and Drug Administration)

Drug Agency Lowers Age for Next-Day Birth Control (by Pam Belluck, New York Times)

U.S. to Defend Age Limits on Morning-After Pill Sales (by Pam Belluck and Michael Shear, New York Times)

Judge Slams FDA for Delaying Emergency Contraception to Girls under 17 (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Health Secretary and FDA Clash over Morning-After Pill for Minors (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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