Thursday, May 2, 2013

Women’s Health Groups Slam Obama Administration’s Fight To Maintain Age Restrictions On Plan B

Late Wednesday evening, the Obama administration announced that it will appeal a recent court decision that ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception available to all women over the counter. Last month, U.S. Judge Edward R. Korman gave the administration 30 days to lift the current age restrictions on over-the-counter Plan B, saying the decision to require younger teenagers to obtain a prescription for the FDA-approved contraceptive amounted to “political interference.”

The Department of Justice believes Korman overstepped his authority by ordering a federal agency to change its policy without allowing more time for internal review. Earlier this week, the FDA announced that it will lower the age restriction from 17 to 15, a policy change that is unrelated to last month’s court ruling. The Obama administration’s decision to appeal is a sign that it will stand by that new rule.

But the women’s health groups that have long advocated for expanded access to emergency contraception — which prominent medical groups confirm is safe for girls of all ages — are unhappy with what they perceive as a “step backwards.” Since there is no scientific basis for age restrictions on Plan B, reproductive rights leaders argue that the White House is simply insistent on playing politics to impose an unnecessary burden on young women:

– SUSANNAH BARUCH, INTERIM PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES PROJECT: “This appeal takes away the promise of all women having timely access to emergency contraception. It is especially troubling in light of the Food and Drug Administration’s move yesterday to continue age restrictions and ID requirements, despite a court order to make emergency contraception accessible for women of all ages. Both announcements, particularly in tandem, highlight the administration’s corner-cutting on women’s health. It’s a sad day for women’s health when politics prevails.”

– NANCY NORTHRUP, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: “The federal court has made clear that these stalling tactics were based purely on politics, not science. We are deeply disappointed that just days after President Obama proclaimed his commitment to women’s reproductive rights, his administration has decided once again to deprive women of their right to obtain emergency contraception without unjustified and burdensome restrictions.”

– CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA: “The Obama administration took an important step forward earlier this week by moving emergency contraception out from behind the pharmacy counter and making it available to people ages 15 and older, and we continue to believe that access should be expanded further.”

– TERRY O’NEILL, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: “The prevention of unwanted pregnancy, particularly in adolescents, should not be obstructed by politicians…President Obama should practice what he preaches.” She called the decision to appeal a “step backwards for women’s health.”

– ILYSE HOUGE, PRESIDENT OF NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: “When Judge Korman’s ruling came down, we welcomed it as an affirmation that policy can and should be driven by facts and delivered with the public health in mind. Unfortunately, today’s appeal reminds us that sometimes our leaders are out of step with the reality women face every day. We can only assume that HHS is signaling that they are satisfied with the status quo. That’s simply unacceptable.”

Conservative groups, on the other hand, applauded the decision to appeal — but still found some fault with the administration’s Plan B policy, which they believe is too lax. Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, noted, “While we agree with the administration’s decision to appeal Judge Korman’s ruling, it is troubling that Secretary Sebelius is ‘satisfied’ with the FDA’s decision to endanger the lives of teen girls. Whether they are 15 or 17, teens need the protection and support that comes with parental and doctor involvement…The administration is moving in the wrong direction if they seek to set an underage standard.”

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