Last week, Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius shocked, disappointed and outraged women’s health advocates and defenders of science-based policy when she overruled the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s determination that Plan B One-Step can safely be made available on the shelf to women of all ages. The FDA had carefully reviewed the evidence and concluded that the prescription restrictions which required this product to be held behind the counter were unnecessary. But the Secretary -- substituting her opinion for the medical evidence and carefully considered conclusions of the FDA scientists -- restricted access to this safe, effective back-up method of contraception.
Yesterday, acting in keeping with Secretary Sebelius’ policy, the FDA rejected a citizen’s petition seeking a full switch to make Plan B available over-the-counter. And today, a judge in New York will hear arguments about whether to hold the FDA in contempt of court for its actions.
Meanwhile, advocates all over the country are burning up the phone lines, the twitterverse and email inboxes with their messages of anger and dismay that President Obama has turned his back on the commonsense option of making safe, effective back-up contraception available to women who need it. And turned his back on his own promise to restore scientific integrity to government decision-making by basing public policies on the soundest science. We know that this decision doesn’t just place an unnecessary and dangerous obstacle in the path of women seeking to prevent an unintended pregnancy; it also means that all future FDA decisions will be vulnerable to second-guessing and political intervention.
The decision is doubly painful because we know it’s both bad policy and bad politics. Maybe the President has been spending too much time with the U.S. Congress where contraception gets treated as if it were a political controversy. If he would get out and talk to people outside of Washington he’d know that men and women think contraception is a normal part of their lives and more than eight in ten voters, including 73% of Republicans, support women's access to contraception. Good politics would be taking steps to make it easier for people who want prevent an unintended pregnancy to do that. Good politics would be keeping the promise to listen to the scientists.
Here’s what you can do:
- Call President Obama to tell him that you want him to stand with the FDA Commissioner, rather than backing Secretary Sebelius’ politically misguided decision to overrule science. You can reach him at 202-456-1111.
- Ask your Senators and Representatives to hold hearings looking into why Secretary Sebelius ignored the advice and consensus of public health professionals. You can get their contact information by clicking on these links.
- Talk with your friends and neighbors about why EC on the shelf makes sense for everyone.
We’re hearing reports that the Obama Administration has noticed our activism over the last week. Keep the pressure on so they’ll know that we won’t stand for this kind of betrayal of women’s health and science!
P.S. On the NWHN’s Facebook page, you can read our reports from last week’s FDA meetings on the safety of two other contraceptive options. Check them out and friend us while you’re there.