Thursday, December 08, 2011

Politics As Usual

Kathleen Sebelius, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, has over-ruled the FDA in making "Plan B" pills available to women under the age of 17 without a prescription.

For the first time ever, the Health and Human Services secretary publicly overruled the Food and Drug Administration, refusing Wednesday to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter, including to young teenagers. The decision avoided what could have been a bruising political battle over parental control and contraception during a presidential election season. [Emphasis added]

This moves comes from an administration that promised in 2008 to stop ignoring science in favor of political expediency. That Plan B has been demonstrated to halve pregnancy if used properly apparently doesn't matter to Barack Obama when an election campaign is underway. That Plan B would obviate the need for abortion doesn't either. Rather than acknowledge that women under 17 just might be having sex (consensual or not), Mr. Obama would rather avoid the battle.

What is so particularly disturbing is the effect this political calculation will have particularly on younger women, according to medical experts:

Several major medical groups reacted swiftly Wednesday to denounce the federal government's decision to limit over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives for younger teens. ...

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine and American Society for Reproductive Medicine said Sebelius made the wrong call.

“As advocates for the health and well-being of all young people, the AAP recommends that adolescents postpone sexual activity until they are fully ready for the emotional, physical and financial consequences of sex,” said Dr. Robert Block, AAP president. “However, as physicians who care for our nation’s children, it is our responsibility to protect the health of our teenage patients, and an unintended pregnancy can have significant implications for adolescents’ physical and emotional health.” ...

The ASRM issued a statement from Dolores J. Lamb, the organization's president, that said in part: "We are very disappointed that Secretary Sebelius opted to insert herself into what should be a scientific decision made by the experts at FDA. The data are clear that emergency contraception can be safely used by adolescent women without requiring a prescription. Sadly, it appears that once again our leaders are putting political expediency ahead of reproductive health."
[Emphasis added]

I guess some things are just more important than the health of women of any age, but particularly younger women. Things like four more years of power, four more years of doing the non-controversial, four more years of taking the easy path rather than the right one.

So much for change.

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