Obama Administration Reluctantly Acquiesces to Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraceptive Plan B

Plan BCredit: PrincetonYesterday, the Obama Justice Department dropped its lawsuit aiming to prevent the sale without a prescription or I.D. of the emergency contraceptive Plan B to all girls and women of reproductive age. Recall that back 2011, the Food and Drug Administration had found the drug safe for all women to use, but was overruled by Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sibelius who ordered that the drug be made available to females under the age of 17 by prescription only. In this case, scientific evidence for safety was trumped by the desires of a politician seeking re-election not to annoy part of the electorate who (needlessly) feared that over-the-counter Plan B might encourage teenagers to have sex.

In the course of this legal rigamarole, the Federal Appeals Court for the Second Circuit ordered (based on legal technicalities) that only the two-pill version of the contraceptive be made available for over-the-counter sale. As the Washington Post reports:

On the two-pill Plan B product, however, the three-judge panel refused the administration’s request for a stay. It would not allow its move to over-the-counter to be delayed.

That meant two things. First, it was a signal that Justice would likely lose its appeal. Stays are typically granted when the appeals court sees a good chance for the challenger to ultimately prevail. In this case, the Second Circuit did not see that.

Second, the ruling meant that the two-pill Plan B product now had to move in front of the counter. According to the senior official, there was worry about the two-pill product proving too complex for young girls to use it properly. The newer Plan B One-Step, which contains a one-pill dosage of levonorgesterl, is easier to use, which the administration thought made it a safer over-the-counter product.

A federal judge had ordered the FDA to allow an emergency contraceptive to be sold over-the-counter and the odds didn’t look good in moving forward with the challenge. The administration, according to this official, felt like it had two not so great options.

Thus did the Justice Department finally cave. So much for President Obama's promise in his first inaugural address: "We will restore science to its rightful place." Right behind political considerations.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • John||

    That is nice, but can we maybe make a few other things OTC now. Doxycycline, malaria pills for God's sake are OTC in pretty much every country in the world, except the US. Tylenol 3 is OTC most places but here. We can't have people having even a tiny bit of codeine without the DEA's permission.

    We live in a country where a minor can now buy a drug that induces pretty serious hemorrhaging, but an adult can't buy a malaria pill or a Tylenol 3 without going to a doctor. We are officially insane.

  • sarcasmic||

    Before I quit smoking I would get sinusitis on a regular basis, and the best medicine was a ten dollar generic prescription. Now it's over the counter and costs three times as much under the name Mucinex.

  • John||

    Pretty much all antibiotics are OTC in Canada and the UK. You should hear the whaling and gnashing of teeth over the evils of UK pharmacies selling antibiotics to Americans online.

  • sarcasmic||

    True freedom means asking permission and taking orders.

  • Almanian!||

    You have the freedom to ask. And comply. No one NEEDS more than that...

  • Cytotoxic||

    What? Pretty sure you need a prescription here in Canada.

    As you should. Antibiotic and anti-malarial resistance are huge problems meriting government force.

  • John||

    Maybe not Canada, but certainly in the UK. And in places where malaria actually exists, it is totally over the counter. The WHO gives the stuff out by the ton.

  • sarcasmic||

    A friend of mine went to some unfree country like Mexico or Guatemala, and came back with some opioid pain pills that he purchased over the counter. I'm so glad that in America we're free to ask permission before buying things like that.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    As you should. Antibiotic and anti-malarial resistance are huge problems meriting government force.

    On what grounds? The Precautionary Principle? Do you not have control over your own body without government say-so?

  • Brandon||

    On the grounds of CytoToxic is basically David Brooks with a couple of different pet issues.

  • ||

    Mucinex has a generic equivalent that is also OTC. Buy that.

  • sarcasmic||

    Haven't had a serious sinus infection since I quit smoking, but thanks.

  • some guy||

    It's not even half price, though. Works like a charm, but I'm still surprised at the cost.

  • l0b0t||

    Mucinex is nothing but guaiphenesin (cough syrup) at 3x the OTC dosage. Buy a bottle a guaiphenesin OTC (Robitussin or generic equivalent) and drink 3x the amount the label recommends.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's also a slow release tablet, stretching that triple dose over three times the normal four hours.

  • l0b0t||

    Yeah, but who wants to wait for relief? I'm an American, I want it fast.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah, but who wants to wake up four hours after going to bed to take another dose?

  • l0b0t||

    I've always chased it with my grandmother's cure-all, bourbon with a squeeze of lemon (served hot), so sleeping through the night has never been a problem. I get irritated at some stores because I may easily purchase Dayquil but Nyquil gets me put on a list.

  • John||

    Add honey to that cure all. Yeah, a hot totty is mana from heaven when you have a cold.

  • l0b0t||

    MMmmm... added honey. Good call John. I've tended bar in both NOLA and NYC; I was routinely shocked (almost to tears) when my NYC customers would order rather high-end bourbon mixed with ginger-ale. Stupid hipsters, if you are going to adulterate your whiskey to the point where it no longer tastes like whiskey, at least use the cheap stuff.

  • John||

    I was in NYC a couple of weeks ago and had a bourbon drink that was muddled ginger, bourbon and ginger bear. It was quite tasty. But well bourbon worked just fine.

  • sarcasmic||

    What's ginger bear? Is it a ginger cookie shaped like a bear?

  • l0b0t||

  • ||

    Ginger bears

    NSFW! also bookmarked.

  • l0b0t||

    The Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer, and lime) is our official Mardi Gras parade drink.

  • ||

    Moscow or Irish mules, and dark and stormies are great standby drinks. We always try to keep gingerbeer and limes in the house.

  • Almanian!||

    Do you have a license to give medical advice?

    NSA!! LOOK! OVER HERE! A LAWBREAKER!

  • some guy||

    How long until this joke gets old?

  • UnCivilServant||

    It was born old, but they're trying to overwhelm the system with keyword hits.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Cue liberals praising Obama for protecting women's access to contraceptives.

  • John||

    Funny how this decision came down just a week after the NSA scandal broke. Here liberals, have some birth control and shut the fuck up about us spying on everyone. My guess is a good dose of free birth control for minors and the opportunity to crow and feel smug over the evil fundies will probably get more than a few liberals to decide NSA spying isn't so important after all.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    This "evolution" will probably be treated just like his one on gay marriage. He was secretly with us all along, so it's okay if he actively fought to stop our goals from being achieved. He didn't want to, he had to because of evil Rethuglicans.

  • Almanian!||

    I blame Bush

  • ||

    This. Anyone here who doesn't think this will be spun into a tremendous victory for Obama and the Democrats needs to share what they're smoking.

  • Floridian||

    Francisco uses liberty if I recall correctly. I choose rye.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Speaking of a tremendous victory, I failed at getting tickets to see the Bruins' upcoming victory.

  • squarooticus||

    What is "reproductive age"? Are they going to do a flow analysis (nyuk nyuk nyuk) to know whether a girl can get pregnant or not? Seems like it has to be "everyone", period.

  • ||

    Yes, "period," is the appropriate notification.

  • Matrix||

    well, considering there are documented cases of 5 year old girls getting pregnant and having kids, I'd say the reproductive age is pretty low.

  • some guy||

    If you're old enough to get to the store with enough money to buy the product, then you're probably old enough to decide whether to use it. Sure, kids make mistakes, but so do adults. I don't see much need for government to protect either group from itself.

  • Matrix||

    are all OTC medicines available for minors to purchase at any age?

  • John||

    I bet cold medicines are not.

  • ||

    If they could make meth with it, I don't think so. And if they are old enough, still only buy one and get your name on more lists. It's the price of freedom.

    #buckofive

  • John||

    Abortions are great. Meth is evil man. It kills children.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Zing!

  • WTF||

    Good question. Can they buy medications with pseudoephedrine?

  • Almanian!||

    Why does the government hate the United Mine Workers? I thought they were all about the Unionists?

    Sheesh - now they gotta be...what....54 or soemthing before they can buy OTC drugs? Just because they're in a union?

    I'm a management guy, and even I think that's fucked up...

  • sarcasmic||

    Reminds me of one evening I'm driving with my father back from a Chinese restaurant, and he's got the radio turned up listening to a story. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what the big deal was about mine workers being served alcohol. It stuck with me because it made no sense, yet the story dragged on and on and on.

    C'mon! Let the miners have a freaking drink!

  • Paul.||

    So a teenage girl can get an abortion in a pill without having to provide ID, but I have to show ID and get on a government registry if I buy cold medicine, and furthermore, I'll get thrown into a dark hole if I buy it "too often".

    What the fuck is happening to my country?

  • PapayaSF||

    It's as if the left is slowly turning us into some sort of matriarchy, in which women are prioritized over men. Birth control and abortion are literally sacred to them.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    A *true* matriarchy wouldn't want to legalize a "procedure" the majority of whose victims are female.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    After all, matriarchy means rule by *mothers.*

  • Paul.||

    More like rule by motherfuckers...

  • PapayaSF||

    You are assuming that women (and leftists) are always rational....

  • Paul.||

    They're taking the correct position but entirely for the wrong reasons.

    We should all be able to buy our medicines from a vending machine without id.

    To them, medicines are categegorized by identity politics. God it's fucked up.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Obama Administration Reluctantly Acquiesces to Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraceptive Plan B"

    Right...and Br'er Rabbit reluctantly acquiesce to being thrown in the briar patch.

    "Please, judges the majority of whom I appointed, don't give me political cover for doing what I wanted to do anyway, but in such a way that I don't get backlash from the soccer moms!"

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    CORRECTION: "judges the majority of whom were appointed by Democratic Presidents."

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement