Loyal Readers™ may recall that in 2011, Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, overrode the FDA’s recommendation that Plan B One-Step — the so-called “morning after pill” that prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of intercourse —be made available over-the-counter without a prescription for women and girls of all ages. The move was completely unprecedented in the history of the agency. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., said at the time:
The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) completed its review of the Plan B One-Step application and laid out its scientific determination. CDER carefully considered whether younger females were able to understand how to use Plan B One-Step. Based on the information submitted to the agency, CDER determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.
It is our responsibility at FDA to approve drugs that are safe and effective for their intended use based on the scientific evidence…Our decision-making reflects a body of scientific findings, input from external scientific advisory committees, and data contained in the application that included studies designed specifically to address the regulatory standards for nonprescription drugs. CDER experts, including obstetrician/gynecologists and pediatricians, reviewed the totality of the data and agreed that it met the regulatory standard for a nonprescription drug and that Plan B One-Step should be approved for all females of child-bearing potential.
Despite FDA’s recommendations based entirely on sound scientific evidence, Secretary Sebelius hung her hat on the fact that ten percent of girls in the U.S. reach puberty by the age of 11.1 years, and noted that “the product would be available, without a prescription or other point-of-sale restrictions, even to the youngest girls of reproductive age.” (pdf.) For some reason she said that like it’s a bad thing, when it is, of course, the very point of eliminating age restrictions and other barriers to access in the first place. The Washington Post summarized her position this way:
Sebelius said she reversed the FDA’s decision because she had concluded that data submitted by the drug’s maker did not “conclusively establish” that Plan B could be used safely by the youngest girls.
I wrote at the time:
To which I can only retort: hey Secretary Sebelius, do you know what cannot be used safely by the youngest girls? The birthing process. However, young girls need neither a prescription nor parental consent for that.
Flash forward to April of this year: in ruling on a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, federal Judge Edward Korman called Sebelius’s decision “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent,” and ordered the agency to make Plan B One-Step available over-the-counter without restriction.
Late yesterday, the administration appealed that decision. In the meantime, on Tuesday the Obama administration approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B One-Step for those age 15 and above — in defiance of Judge Korman’s order. In a noxious bit of lawyering befitting the sleaziest of the profession (and that is saying something, my friends), the administration relied on its brand new 15+ approval rule to argue in its appeal that the case is moot because the plaintiffs — who happened to be 15 or older —”now have access without a prescription and without significant point-of-sale restrictions to at least one form of emergency contraceptive…”
It’s bad enough that this leaves girls 14 and under to their coathangers and friendly neighborhood Gosnells, but it isn’t even true. 15 year olds — particularly urban and/or poor 15 year olds — typically have no drivers licenses or access to other forms of state ID, and thus will not be able to purchase Plan B. FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said in an interview, “If a 15-year-old is unable to verify their age, they will not be able to purchase Plan B One-Step.”
Let us briefly consider some facts:
Adolescent pregnancy is associated with higher rates of illness and death for both the mother and infant.
Death from violence is the second leading cause of death during pregnancy for teens, and is higher in teens than in any other group.
Pregnant teens are at much higher risk of having serious medical complications such as:
It is also worth noting that here in the Greatest Ever Country Ever in the World Ever, 10-year olds give birth. (pdf.)
The Palace stands by and hereby reiterates its previous pronouncement on this matter:
IF A YOUNG GIRL HAS THE GOOD SENSE TO SEEK OUT
EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION WHEN SHE NEEDS IT,
WE SHOULD FUCKING GIVE IT TO HER.
The Palace also stands by and hereby reiterates its theory on the Obama administration’s otherwise inexplicable actions in this matter: