America’s Women: Still Waiting for the President to Restore Science to Its “Rightful Place”


Today, Wednesday, March 24th, 2010, is “Back Up Your Birth Control Day.”  This article includes a link for action at the bottom of the post.

In his inaugural address, President Obama declared his administration would “restore science to its rightful place.”

And on Sunday, after seeing the President agree to an executive order reaffirming restrictive language on abortion coverage in the health care reform bill, America’s women are still waiting.

Reproductive health should not be a political bargaining chip. It is time this administration take real steps to fulfill its commitments to both scientific integrity and reproductive health care.  While restoring access to a full range of health care options may take years, one step that can be taken immediately is for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to reconsider the scientific evidence for making emergency contraception available without prescription for woman of all ages.

It’s already been a year since US District Judge Edward Korman, a Reagan judicial appointee, called out the Bush Administration for its “political and ideological” decision-making regarding emergency contraception and ordered the FDA to review lifting the current age restriction on the availability of over-the-counter emergency contraception.

And still America’s women are waiting. We should not have to wait any longer.

In his decision, Judge Korman concluded that the FDA sacrificed “reasoned agency decision-making” and “departed in significant ways from…normal procedures” under pressure from a Bush White House agenda that put politics ahead of science – an agenda that put politics ahead of safeguarding women’s health.

If the FDA wants to renew its credibility, it must restore scientific integrity to this particular decision. That means acting immediately to remove unwarranted restrictions on over-the-counter access to emergency contraception, including age restrictions and keeping it behind-the-counter.

That’s what the director of the FDA’s Office of New Drugs called for more than five years ago when he wrote, “While over-the-counter access to emergency contraception for adolescents may be controversial from a societal perspective, I cannot think of any age group where the benefit of preventing unplanned pregnancies and abortion is more important and compelling.”

And that’s just why science and not politics should always govern medical decisions – and the science on this issue is overwhelming and beyond question.

More than forty studies have confirmed emergency contraception as safe and effective. The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and many other public health groups have all recommended broader over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. The FDA’s own advisory panel, a group of scientists and medical professionals, voted 23-4 in favor of switching emergency contraception to non-prescription status without age restrictions, but their advice, and the advice of the FDA professional staff was ignored by FDA political leadership.

It’s time the FDA no longer ignore this advice; it’s time the FDA no longer ignore the preponderance of scientific evidence; it’s time the FDA stop hiding behind procedural delays and do what President Obama said would be done that very first day of his Presidency – restore science to its rightful place.

The Department  of Defense has already done so. Just last month, the Department announced it would restore emergency contraception to its formulary, reversing a decision made by a Bush political appointee in 2002 and making it available to the more than 350,000 women serving in the armed forces oversees. No muss, no fuss. Just an independent panel of experts recommending a common sense policy adopted by a common sense bureaucracy.

This is not a question of needing more information. We have all the studies and data we need. Instead, it’s a question of what we need the FDA to do.  We need it to protect our health and to leave decisions about using safe and effective contraception to individual women and couples.

When it comes to protecting her health and planning her family, what a woman needs is greater control and more options, not legislative and regulatory barriers and limitations – and that’s particularly true when it comes to emergency contraception.

Despite precautions and the best planning, no birth control is one hundred percent effective.  Emergency contraception is a safe, effective back-up method that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. 

When a woman fears a possible unintended pregnancy, she needs us to make her decision-making easier, not more difficult. And when a woman decides emergency contraception is in her best interest, access to that emergency contraception should be simple, without delay, without age restriction and available over-the-counter.

The FDA is the oldest consumer protection agency in the federal government, and for over 100 years it has focused on protecting our health.  This should not be a difficult task.  Let the scientific and medical staff at FDA follow the recommendations they made in 2004.

The FDA needs to act now to make this happen.

The FDA needs to act now to restore science to its rightful place.

Take Action: Tell the FDA to end unnecessary age restrictions on emergency contraception.

 

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  • jgbeam

    Science will find its rightful place on its own.  Like stem cell research.  Embryonic stem cell research has proven to be a dead end so all that money is finally starting to go to its rightful place – adult stem cell research, where human lives are not at risk.  Emergency contraception interferes with science. 

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • crowepps

    Emergency contraception interferes with science.

    Is this a typo? Science and scientific research actually were the process by which emergency contraception was created so I find it hard to understand why using it ‘interferes with science’.

  • prochoicegoth

    In his mind, ANYTHING that prevents a fertilized ovum from implanting and then gestating is “against science”. Remember, you’re dealing with someone who really has no respect for human life that isn’t inside of another human being.

  • princess-rot

    Jim’s gone from arguing that birth control is “immoral” then to “unnatural” to “against science”.  Quite the leap of language, but it’s same lie – that a potential life is inherently worth more than born life, regardless of the circumstances that will affect both the born life and the potential life if it is eventually born, which to me is rather anti-life, and is rather disingenuous  to call it pro-life. As to birth control being “against science”, as if it’s another way of saying interfering with biology is unnatural. By that logic, cooking food is unnatural, why not eat it raw like an animal and accept any poisoning as a natural consequence of a biological imperative to feed oneself?  To quote Lord Vetinari, do you eat your meat raw and sleep in a tree, Jim?

  • cmarie

    Well, he could start out by explaining to Al Gore that the change of seasons doesn’t indicate global warming.

     

  • crowepps

    Unless he simply misspoke and actually meant something else, it seems to me such a statement indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what ‘science’ means. Science identifies and describes biological facts. It does not validate them as ‘the way things are supposed to be’. Science has researched and explained and made tests and treatments possible that identify cancers. That doesn’t mean treatments to remove a cancer are ‘against science’.

    Research and explanations and tests and treatments regarding pregnancy and all of its complications for both the woman and the fetus, including abortion, aren’t ‘against science’ either. Instead all of them are based on science.

  • jgbeam

    “restore science to it’s rightful place”.  This is such an absurd statement to make.  It’s rhetoric typical of this administration (the previous one was no better).  What did he mean by this?

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • crowepps

    I believe what this means is that if you are making a policy decision that is supposed to be based on science, as for instance “does this medication effectively prevent conception without causing unacceptable side effects or having a negative impact on the patient’s health”, then the decision should actually be based in the scientific research instead of ignoring that research and checking with ProLife pressure groups or the Church to see whether they ‘approve’ of people wanting to prevent conception.

     

    Another example would be making a policy decision about pollution based on the science rather than distorting the science because addressing the pollution effectively might be “bad for the economy”.

     

    Abortion is health care if pregnancy is killing you.

  • kate-ranieri

    It seems to me that the antichoicers who are adamantly opposed to restoring science to its rightful place really want science and medicine to ignore the facts when it involves women’s reproduction. Just use voodoo and faith-based malarky so we keep ‘em barefoot and pregnant.

     

    But when they themselves are ill, they don’t rely solely on their rosary beads and their crucifixes. No siree. They trot right down to their physician’s office to be examined using scientific instruments and medical knowledge. They have diagnostic work completed using scientific instruments and medical knowledge. They even take medications that were formulated using science and medical knowledge. 

  • cmarie

    crowepps, we should exchange e mails sometime.  You sound like an interesting person.  I also like links that are almost two years old when talking about global warming http://www.junkscience.com/ByTheJunkman/20080117.html

    just like I expect to see REALLY old books when debating with my flat earther friends.

     

    cmarie

    (clare)- anti abortion (usually), anti adoption (frequently), pro birth control,  pro women and anti slogan (always)

  • crowepps

    Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers and is now nearly as great as that observed in Greenland, according to a new, comprehensive study by NASA and university scientists.

    http://geology.com/nasa/antarctic-ice-sheet-melting.shtml

     

    Scientists at the School of Oceanographic Studies at the university have noted an alarming increase in the rate at which sea levels have risen over the past decade in the Bay of Bengal.

     

    Until 2000, the sea levels rose about 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) a year, but over the last decade they have been rising about 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) annually, he said.

     

    Another nearby island, Lohachara, was submerged in 1996, forcing its inhabitants to move to the mainland, while almost half the land of Ghoramara island was underwater, he said. At least 10 other islands in the area were at risk as well, Hazra said.

     

    “We will have ever larger numbers of people displaced from the Sunderbans as more island areas come under water,” he said.

     

    Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people, is one of the countries worst-affected by global warming. Officials estimate 18 percent of Bangladesh’s coastal area will be underwater and 20 million people will be displaced if sea levels rise 1 meter (3.3 feet) by 2050 as projected by some climate models.

     

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/24/new-moore-island-disappea_n_511162.html

  • jgbeam

    I like my example better.  Instead of using science to kill lives through embryonic stem cell research which leads nowhere, use it for adult stem cell research which does not kill lives but produces effective treatments (over 70 so far) for a wide variety of diseases.  Of course, Obama was promoting the former when he made his statement.  Have you looked for ESC research results lately? 

     

    “Abortion is health care if pregnancy is killing you.”

     

    Agreed.  But not when it is not killing you.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

     

  • ahunt

    Do I really need to pull up the list of the adverse health effects of “normal” pregnancy, Jim?

  • crowepps

    Embryonic stem cells used for research aren’t dead. If they were, they wouldn’t be useful for research. The ones not destined for research are the ones that are killed.

  • elyzabeth

    Jim,

     

    I don’t know what you read, but your statement “embryonic stem cell research leads nowhere” is factually incorrect.  I do not know how much of a background you have in science, so you might not be aware of how much we have yet to learn about cell division and differention.  Embryonic stem cells are still an important resource as we look for cures for cancer, spinal injury, Parkinson’s, and heart disease, among other conditions.

     

    First, a stem cell differs from normal cells in two important ways.  Stem cells are A) proliferative, meaning they can divide many times (as opposed to regular cells which have a set number of divisions) and B) undifferentiated, unlike other cells that all have a specific type (ei heart muscle cell or red blood cell).

     

    Stem cells used in research can come from three sources.  Adults have a quantity of stem cells in their bodies.   A good example is the stem cells in bone marrow which are capable of dividing into many different types of blood cells.  However, adult stem cells divide slowly and can only create a limited number of different types of cells (ei stem cells in bone marrow make only blood cells–it can’t make liver cells or nerve cells).  Stem cells are also found in the blood in the umbilical cord.  These stem cells do not have the ability to become any tissue in the body, like embryonic stem cells do.  However, umbilical cord stem cells can grow into a wider array of tissues than other adult stem cells (ei researchers have been able to coax umbilical blood stem cells to grow into liver cells). 

     

    Embryonic stems cells come from blastocysts (a ball of undifferentiated cells), divide quickly, and can grow into any tissue in the body given the correct environment.  These embryos were left over from in vitro fertilization and are used with the consent of the donors.  Last I read, there were approximately 400,000 frozen human embryos in the US waiting to be thrown away, and even more embryos world-wide. 

     

    (We also have the technology to implant uteruses in men, so any guys out there who are personally bothered by the fate of all these frozen embryos can now intervene if it really matters to them.)

     

    Lastly, in 2006 researchers discovered a way to deprogram (via addition of transcription factors) adult skin cells to become undifferentiated and proliferative cells.  This has many research applications–however, any medical applications are still quite a while away.  DNA is frequently damaged during this procedure, which leads to abnormal tissues and uncontrolled division (ei cancer).

     

    Adult stem cells have lead to common therapies for conditions like blood disorders, lymphoma, and leukemia.  In fact, a bone marrow transplant (which we have been performing for about 40 years) is a form of stem cell therapy, since it is replacing “bad” adult stem cells with someone else’s “good” adult stem cells.  Several other therapies, like cornea transplants from cadavers, also use adult stem cells.  Stem cell injections have also been used successfully to treat a variety of joint and tendon problems in dogs and horses.  As far as I know, trials testing adult stem cell therapies are also underway for heart disease and kidney disease. 

     

    The first clinical trial for embryonic stem cell therapy in humans in the US will probably be starting later this year.  The study, using ESC to treat spinal chord injury, was approved last January but suffered set-backs.  However, just because there are no ESC treatments currently on the market doesn’t mean that it is a “dead end.”  We are currently learning so much that it would be extremely detrimental to science to get rid of this valuable resource.  

     

    Researchers have only had access to ESC since 1998, so am I correct that you are effectively saying, “If we haven’t cured cancer by now, we never will, so let’s just give up on the whole thing!” 

     

    It’s a joke in the genetics department here that new textbook editions need to come out every six months.  We are learning at an exponential rate, and it has only picked up in the last few years.  Science works slowly since we are constantly learning how much we don’t know.  Medical advances don’t come from saying I have X resource here and I will use it to solve Y problem.  Medical advances happen from spending years studying X and then using that knowledge to come up with solutions to problem Z that you initially thought was unrelated. 

     

    Further reading: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics1.asp

     

  • elyzabeth

    And one more thing Jim,

     

    I forgot to mention this, but it is imperative to consider with the study of hESC therapy for acute spinal injury slated to happen later this year.  You must acknowledge that a very strong ethical case can be made for this study given the consequences of spinal injury.  There’s a reason Christopher Reeve was a huge proponent of hESC.

     

    Even if you do believe that an undifferentiated ball of cells is a person, in a choice between discarding the embryo or using it to help someone walk again, which is more ethical?  Adopting it is generally not an option as many embryos were left over because they weren’t good candidates for implanting.  Is discarding it somehow more respectful? 

  • elyzabeth

    I definitely agree the distrust of science is an epidemic in some populations.  Denial of contraception to minor women goes hand-in-hand with promoting abstainence-only education and single-cell personhood. The same asshats who buy into that are generally the same ones who favor  “teaching the controversy” about evolution in science class and all the other anti-intellectual nonsense. 

     

    If you watched any clips of the Texas Board of Education’s debate about what the textbooks should contain, you’ll see what I mean.  The phrase, “Someone needs to stand up to experts,” should never be uttered unironically

     

    Obama was addressing the fact that calling someone an “intellectual” has become an insult when he talked about “restoring science to its rightful place.” 

  • jgbeam

    about stem cell research.  I only know there is no therapy thus far from ESC research.  The “dead end” is a quote from Dr. Oz.  Look up the youtube video in which his comment stunned Oprah and Michael Fox.

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • frolicnaked

    The “dead end” is a quote from Dr. Oz.

    Thank you, Jim, for the explanation. It speaks volumes.

  • princess-rot

    Just like concernedmom and truth, you admit that you are largely ignorant of the thing you protest against, and you don’t listen to others unless they already align with your particular brand of hocus-pocus, so you dismiss them as automatically wrong despite the fact that they know more than you do. You admit you know nothing about the nuances of the social, political, economical, philosophical, ethical, physical, mental and emotional aspects of how the pro-life position uniquely affects women, and opposition to certain types of research affects the sick and the disabled…  and all you can use to justify this is some vaguely icky feelings about the machinations of sex and “babies” being “discarded”, and a quote from some guy who was on Oprah one time.

     

    Right.

     

    Why do you think your half-assed thoughts and feelings should be made into laws governing the bodies of half the human population?

  • jgbeam

    Provide me a quote from a doctor, any doctor, anywhere, with proof of successful therapy from ESC.

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

    • elyzabeth

      We’ve only been studying hESC for about twelve years.  Like any field, it started at slowly, but as more and more advances have been made in the last couple of years.  Experimental results are very promising, so I don’t know why you say “theoretical” like it is a dirty word.  Trust me, scientists aren’t in a huge cabal to defraud tax-payers and organizations out of grant-money and then lie about imaginary results.  Unless you actually believed that there was a conspiracy among scientists, I don’t know why you are willing to believe that every expert in the field is lying to you. 

       

      For any drug that the FDA approves, the lag between when it is discovered and when it hits the market is years, often decades.  The field of hESC research didn’t exactly start from scratch in 1998, but we had so much to learn before we could use them.  Restrictions on research have greatly curtailed progress, so really–”12 years of research” on hESC is not equal to “12 years of research” on any other pharmaceutical hitting the market.

       

      You keep saying that only adult stem cells are beneficial, but that’s because we’ve been using them for nearly forty years

  • jgbeam

    “You admit you know nothing about the nuances of the social, political, economical, philosophical, ethical, physical, mental and emotional aspects of how the pro-life position uniquely affects women, and opposition to certain types of research affects the sick and the disabled…  “

     

    Princess Rot knows all.

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

    • princess-rot

      Do I really have to quote back to you what you stated upthread? I do not “know all”, and I did not say I did, but at least I bother to educate myself on the subject at hand instead of throwing out glib emotive one-liners that would only work among others who are already in line with your poorly-considered idealogy. Again, you are half-assing and evading the question. I can’t say I’m surprised. Every pro-lifer I’ve debated on here and other boards has started to dodge and evade when questioned about their motives. You emphatically state, over and over, that you are a pro-lifer and “abortion is not healthcare”, it’s YOUR position, so, why don’t you back it up? The onus is on you to prove why your personal feelings ought to be made into laws governing the lives and bodies of half the human population for a considerable stretch of their lives. “God says so” will not convince me, because then I will definitely know you haven’t thought about it.

  • colleen

    Jim,

    Embryonic Stem cell research is a very promising field of research. Here are links to two recent articles (and an excellent, comprehensive science news site)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090506093950.htm

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091007223724.htm

    Once again, ‘pro-life’ Catholics are welcome to refuse the eventual benefits of this research but y’all are most certainly not welcome to use your beliefs to prevent research in this promising field.

  • jgbeam

    Beneficial results?  Only with adult stem cells.

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • colleen

    Jim,

    You’re not entitled to your own facts.

  • crowepps

    “I admit no scientific knowledge about stem cell research.”

     

    Then you are also admitting that your statements have no basis whatsoever in fact.  Why are you on here trying to make authoritative statements about a subject when you don’t have any knowledge of the subject?

     

    Abortion is health care when pregnancy is killing you or ruining your health.