- MSNBC host Ed Schultz paid $252K by unions in 2012-2013
- Korean War memorial ordered to take down Christian cross
- Billy Graham near death, ‘close to going home to be with the Lord’
- SeaTac, Wash.: City’s new $15 minimum wage heads to court
- Obama mulls support for Islamists in Syria, with conditions
- Obama ‘birther’ theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- U.S. drone faulted for killing 14 ‘innocent civilians’ at Yemen wedding
- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
HHS: Morning-after pill can’t be sold over counter
WASHINGTON — In a surprise move with election-year implications, the Obama administration’s top health official overruled her own drug regulators and stopped the Plan B morning-after pill from moving onto drugstore shelves next to the condoms.
The decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius means the Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive will remain behind pharmacy counters, as it is sold today — available without a prescription only to those 17 and older who can prove their age.
The Food and Drug Administration was preparing to lift the age limit on Wednesday and allow younger teens, who today must get a prescription, to buy it without restriction. That would have made Plan B the nation’s first over-the-counter emergency contraceptive, a pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.
But Sebelius intervened at the eleventh hour and overruled FDA, deciding that young girls shouldn’t be able to buy the pill on their own — especially since some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children.
“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. “I do not believe enough data were presented to support the application to make Plan B One-Step available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age.”
The move will anger a pivotal part of Obama’s Democratic base, and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a member of the Senate leadership, quickly asked for Sebelius to explain her decision. The White House said Sebelius, who is very close to Obama and worked on his 2008 presidential campaign, decided on her own.
“Secretary Sebelius took this action after careful review,” Obama spokesman Nick Papas said in a statement. “As the secretary has stated, Plan B will remain available to all women who need it, and the president supports the secretary’s decision.”
But the move also could help Democrats make their case to independents, whose support will be critical in next fall’s presidential election, that Obama is not the liberal ideologue Republicans claim. It followed Obama administration reversals this year on some environmental and other issues that irked Democrats.
It was believed to be the first time that the HHS has publicly overruled an FDA decision.
It was the latest twist in a nearly decade-long push for easier access to emergency contraception, and the development shocked women’s groups and maker Teva Pharmaceuticals, which had been gearing up for over-the-counter sales to begin by month’s end.
“We are outraged that this administration has let politics trump science,” said Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, an advocacy group. “There is no rationale for this move.”
“This decision is stunning. I had come to believe that the FDA would be allowed to make decisions based on science and the public’s health,” said Susan Wood of George Washington University, who served as the FDA’s top women’s health official until resigning in 2005 to protest delays in deciding Plan B’s fate. She said, “Sadly, once again, FDA has been overruled and not allowed to do its job.”
But the decision pleased conservative critics of the proposal.
“Take the politics out of it and it’s a decision that reflects the concerns that many parents in America have,” said Wendy Wright, an evangelical Christian activist who has helped lead the opposition to Plan B.
“This is the right decision based on a lack of scientific evidence that it’s safe to allow minors access to this drug, much less over the counter,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- Obama birther theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- PRUDEN: The last living witnesses; they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror
- Echoes of Cold War in Ukraine as Russia tries to rein in former Soviet satellites
- KEENE: James Clapper should resign for lying to Congress
- Kim Jong-un consolidating power or losing grip on North Korea's military
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- Broncos-Chargers game ends with several stabbings
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow