By Nick Gillespie
A lawsuit has partially reversed a Bush admin edict restricting
over-the-counter sales of the "morning-after" pills to women under the age of 18
"The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it would accept, not appeal,
a federal judge's order that lifts Bush administration restrictions limiting
over-the-counter sales of "Plan B" to women 18 and older. U.S. District Judge
Edward Korman ruled last month in a lawsuit filed in New York that President
George W. Bush's appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to
restrict over-the-counter access.
"Women's groups said the FDA's action was long overdue, since the agency's own
medical reviewers had initially recommended that the contraceptive be made
available without any age restrictions....
"Conservatives said politics drove the decision."
Well, duh. Politics is known to drive a lot of decisions in the er, political
realm, including the Bush administration's original decision to keep the bill
away from people who might have use for it:
"In 2003, a panel of outside advisers voted 23-4 to recommend over-the-counter
sales without age restrictions. But top FDA officials told their subordinates
that no approval could be issued at the time, and the decision would be made at
a higher level. That's considered highly unusual, since the FDA usually has the
last word on drug decisions."
The Bush folks originally didn't want to let anyone get the drug without a
prescription and then eventually decided on a behind-the-counter scenario for
those 18 and over.
Random thoughts about letting the contraceptive known as Plan B more
available: First, though it's often confused with RU-486, a.k.a. "the abortion
pill," it is a contraceptive, not an abortifacient; it's essentially a
super-duper birth-control pill that works by stopping ovulation or
fertilization. So it doesn't raise the same questions as abortion does.
Second, there appears to be virtually no connection between
access to Plan B and increased sexual activity (that's one of the fears of
Third, while the Plan B fooferaw has generally (and accurately) been seen as
a case where conservatives have stood in the way of standard medical and
scientific approval processes, liberals would do well to note the FDA's role in
all of this. That is, when you give a government agency monopoly control over
the drug-approval process, you're not only going to get highly politicized
science and medicine, you're going to get highly politicized science and
medicine that might just go against what you want. The FDA is an agency whose
very mission of protecting Americans is highly dubious as a general proposition and whose
actions often clearly work against the interests of sick people.
President Obama has already shown a tremendous deficit of vision when it comes to
budget-cutting, transportation policy, and energy policy. Here's hoping that
when he turns his laser-like ability to resurrect failed ideas from the past
with regard to medicine, he actually does something different and allows more
methods of testing and providing drugs, not fewer. But don't count on it.