The Plan B Decision: A Dangerous Precedent

On Friday, January 6th, 2012, several experts addressed the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology about the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step® and the Obama administration’s refusal to let the Food and Drug Administration lift the age restriction from the medication. The administration dismissed overwhelming scientific evidence showing Plan B’s safety, and the experts whose testimonies are published by RHRC raised questions about both the process and the politics behind the decision.

See all our coverage of the Administration’s 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to address you today.

Half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended, resulting in 1.3 million abortions and 1.4 million unplanned births each year. Clearly, women need more, not less, access to contraceptives. Yet last month, Secretary Sebelius overruled the FDA’s expert judgment that the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step should be approved for full nonprescription sale.

To the FDA, the evidence is clear: Plan B is safe for women of all ages. Yet in a dangerous precedent, the Secretary overturned the decision based on pseudo-scientific concerns about misuse among younger adolescents. This is a distraction and a convenient political excuse. This decision impacts ALL women, not only those younger than 17. Women who are victims of sexual violence, who are not able to use contraception, or whose method fails need another chance to prevent pregnancy. If emergency contraception, or EC, had full nonprescription status, it would be sold in a variety of retail outlets, and women in crisis would not need to talk with the pharmacist and show ID to get EC. This would remove serious barriers, such as pharmacists arbitrarily refusing to dispense EC; women feeling too judged or embarrassed to ask for it; and limited pharmacy hours delaying use of EC beyond the timeframe in which it is effective.

Evidence shows that Plan B is an extremely safe drug. And yet medications that we know can be harmful if misused, such as aspirin, are approved for sale on the shelf with no age restriction and no additional data requirements for younger users. This double standard is motivated by political, not medical, considerations.  It is a profound disappointment that yet again, politics took precedence over science when it comes to Plan B.  We urge President Obama to stand firm by his commitment to “restore science to its rightful place”, and to support American women in having full control over their reproductive destiny.

Thank you.

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