- Associated Press - Thursday, December 8, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Thursday it was just common sense to keep girls under the age of 17 from being able to buy a morning-after contraceptive pill off a drugstore shelf. Citing his own two daughters, Obama said: “I think most parents would probably feel the same way.”

Plenty of pediatric leaders and women’s advocacy groups did not, as reaction flowed in to the administration’s decision to prevent the over-the-counter sale of the anti-pregnancy drug to sexually active girls of younger ages.

Critics said politics had trumped science, again.

“When President Obama took office, he pledged the administration’s commitment to scientific integrity,” said Cynthia Pearson of the National Women’s Health Network. “This decision is a betrayal of that promise.”

At issue is a pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.

It is available without a prescription only to those 17 and older who can prove their age _ and that will now remain the case after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled scientists at the Food and Drug Administration. They were preparing to let the pill be sold without a prescription or age limit.

Obama rallied around Sebelius‘ arguments that younger girls may not be able to understand the medicine’s labeling or use the pill properly. He insisted he was not involved in the decision in any way.

“I will say this, as the father of two young daughters: I think it is important for us to make sure that, you know, we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine,” Obama said in a brief news conference at the White House.

Obama’s daughter Malia is 13. His daughter Sasha is 10.

Obama said that as he understood it, Sebelius was wary of a 10-year-old or 11-year-old going into a drugstore and buying a medication _ one on the shelves next to “the bubble gum and batteries” _ that could be harmful if not used properly.

Stores, though, were never likely to put the drug near chewing gum or batteries. It was going to go on shelves by condoms, spermicides and pregnancy tests.

The rhetorical emphasis on the potential for 11- and 12-year-old girls to use the pill also rankled advocates.

There are no age restrictions on other over-the-counter drugs that could potentially have serious side-effects in young children.

“When it comes to FDA drug approvals, contraceptives are being held to a different and non-scientific standard _ in a word, politics,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. She said the comments by Obama and Sebelius would suggest no FDA-approved drug _ not a Tylenol or a Sudafed _ should be on drugstore shelves.

The center has a pending lawsuit against FDA over the morning-after pill restrictions and will argue in court next week that FDA should be held in contempt.

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