The FDA and Plan B: Another Epic Fail

UPDATE: The Justice Department appealed the New York ruling tomorrow and asked for a stay on the order to make Plan B available to all women over-the-counter. Another epic fail!

I’m not happy with the front-page news that greeted me this morning: The FDA has agreed to make Plan B, aka, emergency contraception, available over the counter for girls as young as 15, although all women will have to show an ID. Previously, you had to be 17 to access it without a prescription and even older women had to ask a pharmacist for it, which is not only embarrassing, but the pharmacist could refuse to provide it and, if the pharmacy was closed, she was out of luck.

So I do have to (grudgingly) applaud the FDA for at least getting rid of the pharmacy requirement. Given that many drugstores are open 24 hours a day, women will now have access to Plan B when they need it. But the rest of the ruling. ..meh.

I’ve written about the Plan B controversy before, when the FDA recommended it be available over the counter with no age restrictions and when, in a highly unusual, this-never-happens-move, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebalius overruled the decision.

Last month a federal judge in New York overruled Sebalius, calling the age limits on Plan B “arbitrary” and ordering the agency to approve its sale over the counter with no age restrictions.

The FDA says its decision yesterday is “unrelated” to the judge’s ruling.

(And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. . .)

I have three sons. Ever since they began to look at girls with something other than disgust, my husband and I have drilled into them the importance of contraception when the time came.

We also made sure they knew about emergency contraception and how to obtain it. Even though we didn’t condone early sexual activity, we told them that if the girl was under 17, she should have a prescription from her doctor in hand “just in case.” For those girlfriends 17 and older, we suggested they have it in their medicine cabinet “just in case.” We didn’t actually go buy Plan B for them, but only because I never thought about it until just now (and I plan to hit the drugstore later today).

Condoms break or slip off. Girls forget to take their birth control pills. Accidents happen. That’s why half of all pregnancies in this country are unintended.

I am far too young to be a grandparent.

The FDA’s policy is not only wrong, it’s discriminatory. After all, no one cards boys when they buy condoms.

The good news (fingers crossed) is that if the Obama administration does not appeal the judge’s decision and complies with the federal court ruling, the FDA’s decision is moot and women will be able to chalk up at least one victory for reproductive rights in a period in which such rights are under attack.

One Response to “The FDA and Plan B: Another Epic Fail”

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