There's Got to Be a Morning-After Pill For 17 Year-Olds


A lawsuit has partially reversed a Bush admin edict restricting over-the-counter sales of the "morning-after" pills to women under the age of 18 years.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it would accept, not appeal, a federal judge's order that lifts Bush administration restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of "Plan B" to women 18 and older. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month in a lawsuit filed in New York that President George W. Bush's appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to restrict over-the-counter access.

Women's groups said the FDA's action was long overdue, since the agency's own medical reviewers had initially recommended that the contraceptive be made available without any age restrictions….

Conservatives said politics drove the decision.

Well, duh. Politics is known to drive a lot of decisions in the er, political realm, including the Bush administration's original decision to keep the bill away from people who might have use for it:

In 2003, a panel of outside advisers voted 23-4 to recommend over-the-counter sales without age restrictions. But top FDA officials told their subordinates that no approval could be issued at the time, and the decision would be made at a higher level. That's considered highly unusual, since the FDA usually has the last word on drug decisions.

The Bush folks originally didn't want to let anyone get the drug without a prescription and then eventually decided on a behind-the-counter scenario for those 18 and over.

Whole story here.

Random thoughts about letting the contraceptive known as Plan B more available: First, though it's often confused with RU-486, a.k.a. "the abortion pill," it is a contraceptive, not an abortifacient; it's essentially a super-duper birth-control pill that works by stopping ovulation or fertilization. So it doesn't raise the same questions as abortion does.

Second, there appears to be virtually no connection between access to Plan B and increased sexual activity (that's one of the fears of conservatives).

Third, while the Plan B fooferaw has generally (and accurately) been seen as a case where conservatives have stood in the way of standard medical and scientific approval processes, liberals would do well to note the FDA's role in all of this. That is, when you give a government agency monopoly control over the drug-approval process, you're not only going to get highly politicized science and medicine, you're going to get highly politicized science and medicine that might just go against what you want. The FDA is an agency whose very mission of protecting Americans is highly dubious as a general proposition and whose actions often clearly work against the interests of sick people.

President Obama has already shown a tremendous deficit of vision when it comes to budget-cutting, transportation policy, and energy policy. Here's hoping that when he turns his laser-like ability to resurrect failed ideas from the past with regard to medicine, he actually does something different and allows more methods of testing and providing drugs, not fewer. But don't count on it.

Update: Here's The Onion in 2007 on Plan C, a pill that re-impregnates guilt-ridden women.

matthew h writes below:

I reject the science versus politics dichotomy. Neither decision is more "scientific." Questions of drug availability via a regulation is a policy ie sociopolitical values question, always. It's not like scientists in white lab coats in a government agency are some new neutral science clergy, giving apolitical decisions of true right and wrong. My general policy is to err in favor favor greater availability of drugs for individual choice (I do get the abortifacient distinctions). But it's not more "scientific" of me or FDA to do so. I just have better politics/policy.

I agree and was not implying that science (or even science!) can solve (m)any policy issues. I should have written above that when the state has a monopoly over the drug-approval process, you not only get highly politicized sciece but highly scientized politics, which might even be worse given the inevitable pretense to absolute knowledge. Recommended reading on that topic: Hayek's The Counter-revolution of Science: Studies on the abuse of reason.