DN Editorial: PLAN B FOR PLAN B: Obama disappoints on contraception

Posted: December 12, 2011

SO, LET'S GET this straight: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius doesn't think that teenage girls are mature enough to avoid overdosing on emergency contraception medication that consists of a single pill, but that they are presumably mature enough to deal with an unintended pregnancy, arrange an abortion - or have a child?

That's one conclusion you might draw from Sebelius' decision to become the first secretary of Health and Human Services - in, like, ever - to overrule a science-based recommendation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that would have made the so-called "morning-after pill" available on drugstore and supermarket shelves.

The more plausible - and, sigh, too predictable - conclusion is that President Obama has again betrayed a supposedly basic principle of his administration: that science, not politics, would govern government policy.

And it's dumb politics, winning him no votes from people who were never going to vote for him and increasing disappointment among people who care about reproductive rights and thought that Obama did, too.

The "Plan B One-Step" pill that was up for FDA approval is simply a higher dose of the female hormone in birth-control pills that millions of women have taken safely for decades. Most effective if taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected intercourse, it can prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours afterward. It is not an abortion pill. It had been OK'd for use without a prescription for women over 17, but the age requirement meant that they had to ask a pharmacist for it and show proof of age. The FDA recommendation came after two recent studies found that 90 percent of girls under 17 understood how to take the pill safely.

But, facts apparently don't matter as much as Obama's parental feelings. He, "as a father of two daughters," said that the government should "apply some common sense" to rules for over-the-counter medication: 10- or 11-year-olds might be able to find the pill next to the "bubble-gum and batteries" and use it improperly.

Well, there are more than a few fathers (and mothers) of daughters who think that it is "common sense" that young teenagers would find it so challenging to obtain a doctor's prescription on short notice that they would more than likely "hope for the best" than even try - or confide in their parents that they needed emergency contraception.

Besides, Plan B was never going to be stocked with the bubble gum: it was going to be on the shelf next to spermicides, pregnancy tests and, oh yes, condoms, which males of any age can buy without hassle. This decision means that, not only are younger teenagers blocked from access, but also women of all ages still face the unnecessary barrier of needing to ask for the medication.

So this latest cave will have negative consequences for a lot of fathers' daughters who thought that they were voting for a president, not a Daddy.

|
|
|
|
|