Do the Right Thing: Make Emergency Contraception Accessible and Affordable

(Originally posted on The Hill's Congress Blog.)

A federal court yesterday called on the FDA to do the right thing and revisit its politically motivated decision to unnecessarily restrict access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B. Often referred to as the “morning-after pill,” Plan B is a concentrated dose of the birth control pills millions of women take every day. And as yesterday’s court duly noted, the science is clear: women of all ages do not need a prescription to safely and effectively use Plan B to prevent pregnancy.

The story of Plan B is a long one, filled with, as the court puts it, “repeated and unreasonable delays,” “political considerations,” and “implausible justifications for decision-making.” In 2001, a group of 70 medical and public health organizations filed a petition with the FDA to make Plan B available without a prescription. The approval process was unlike any in recent FDA history. An aberration not missed by yesterday’s court:

FDA upper management, including the Commissioner, wrested control over the decision-making on Plan B from staff that normally would issue the final decision on an over-the-counter switch application; the FDA's denial of non-prescription access without age restriction went against the recommendation of a committee of experts it had empanelled to advise it on Plan B; and the Commissioner — at the behest of political actors — decided to deny non-prescription access to women 16 and younger before FDA scientific review staff had completed their reviews.

Thwarting science and their own protocols, when the FDA finally decided to allow pharmacies to sell Plan B without a prescription, they limited access to women 18 and older with government-issued proof of age. For everyone else — teens under the age of 18 and women without government-issued proof of age — emergency contraception would continue to be available only with a prescription.

Yesterday, federal Judge Edward Korman held that "the FDA's decision was not the result of good faith and reasoned agency decision-making" because of "improper political interference" and departure from standard FDA policies. It ordered the FDA to expand over the counter access to 17 year olds and to reconsider its decision requiring any age restriction.

This decision helps restore the American value of scientific integrity in our government. The FDA can again be an advocate for increasing access to health care, rather than an enforcer of political ideology at the expense of women's health.

However, this is only the first step. More work is needed to make sure that all women have true access to emergency contraception. Even if the FDA makes Plan B available to all women without a prescription, we remain concerned about the high cost of over-the-counter emergency contraception. Most state Medicaid plans, for example, currently don't cover Plan B, meaning that many low-income women who rely on Medicaid for their health care needs currently can't afford access. And with the mounting cost of health care in general coupled with our tough economic times, more and more women — many of whom don't qualify for Medicaid — will find it difficult if not impossible to cover the costs of Plan B when they need it. Yesterday's court decision has given us the opportunity not only to put science and health care back into the FDA decision making process, but to simultaneously reconsider ways to make Plan B accessible and affordable for all women who need it.

— Sondra Goldschein, Director of State Advocacy, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Vania Leveille, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

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Jeff Peterson

This should only be available for rape victims. This should not be used as a contraseptive. When will the ACLU take up the rights of the unborn from the "PRO DEATH" organizations? WHEN? "LIVE FREE OR DIE"

CrossBow33

Please show me/everyone where in the Constitution, or in any other founding document, it says that the unborn have rights. Should they have? Perhaps. Which rights? Who decides? Can you get a consensus? How about an amendment?

In the mean time...don't want an abortion? Don't have one!

Dr Shawna Murray MD

We need a single payer health care system that provides true health care in a high quality fashion. Special interests have no place in the provision of appropriate care. The profit motive has no place in medicine. Time and money should be spent eliminating violent, incompetent and unethical providers and systemic fraud.

Kevin

"We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are CREATED equal (not BORN equal) and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." -- From a founding document you may have heard of. If we can see clear to extend the rights of US citizenship to non-US citizens we can see clear to do the same for our own unborn young who have broken no laws and violated no precepts. With rape and incest accounting for a mere 0.3% of all abortion cases I think contraceptive abortion is an issue that needs addressing. The argument about reproductive rights and choice seems largely to ignore that in the vast majority of cases choices were made and the maker(s) of said choices simply decided not to abide by the consequences of the choices made. In life we make many choices from which we cannot hide, loading a gun, pointing it in a room and pulling the trigger randomly represents a series of choices for which consequences exist, we should take the creation of life at least as seriously as the causation of death.

janedoe

Quite frankly, I don't see why so many women need emergency contraception. If one isn't ready to have children, don't have sex. Or at least, use some form of contraception, like the pill or condoms.

Is that so hard?

Is it possible for more women (and men) to act with discretion and keep their physical desires in check?

Or are condoms just a pro-conservative, right-wing creation that deny the choice to kill an unborn child?

What's wrong with masturbation? There's no risk of STD's, pregnancy, or emotional difficulties.

So it may not be as fun but it sure as hell eliminates the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

Even better, what's wrong with adoption? You had sex, you chose not to use contraception, and you got pregnant. Actions have consequences. Learn to live iwth it.

Why not give some childless couple your unwanted baby? There are so many people out there who want a child but can't have one. Why can't they have yours?

Is giving up an unwanted child wrong? Does it deny any woman freedom?

Adoption allows a woman to give a couple (or individual) one of the greatest gifts possible- a child.

But our pro-liberal society won't acknowledge that option.

Oh no.

The only option is to kill an unborn child because THAT is freedom. Any other choice is simply the result of religious ideology. Or so liberalism would have one believe.

I believe that there are certain situations in which abortion is the lesser of two evils- for this reason, it should remain legal.

But abortion on demand? That needs to be stopped.

Keep Plan B available for rape victims and women who cannot physically handle a pregnancy. I still disagree with its use but I can live with it.

What I can't live with is women using abortion and Plan B as contraception.

The ACLU could do some good and begin to redeem itself by supporting adoption and protecting the rights of the unborn.

How dare anyone try to protect the "American rights" of prisoners in Gitmo but not bat an eye at a woman having an abortion at 34 weeks gestation.

It is illegal to kill but it's perfectly okay to have an abortion just because you don't want a child right now.

The ACLU's postion on abortion disgusts me. And unfortunately for our country, Obama is only going to allow things to get worse.

Yay liberalism!

Paen

No matter how much the fanatics for forced breeding rave about stupid women and evil Liberals there are far to many inteligent people around to permit a return to the middle ages.
Btw Kevin your so called statistic about
rape and abortion is just another fairy tale that only the truely gullible would believe.

reality

CrossBow33..took the words right from under me "In the meantime…don’t want an abortion? Don’t have one!"

Truthfully your religious beliefs should not in any way effect the fact and necessity of this procedure existing and for it to be safely available through out the national medical system.

I mean really is there some rush on abortions I am completely unaware of? Are all the cool kids having one today... Is it the in thing to do? I am under 30, female, and live in the largest city in the union, I find it hard to believe that out of all the thousands of people I know, went to school with, hung out with, partied with ect, ect... only one girl, just one had an abortion. Three other girls (two of which were in our 10th grade class) they all had the babies when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

Funny figures no? I imagine this is a personal private and very hard issue which that women(child/girl), her conscience, and her family need to deal with. Me, some random stranger who is not in any way involved in her life should probably mind my business. Whatever happened to minding your business.

Lead by example America, you want abortions to come down in there numbers... how about first we try staying married and raising our own families. Keep your kids in school, teach tolerance, show young people how big and beautiful this world is, be part of your community not just small sects you can find 100% agreements with....

I love that we are always ready to wag our collective fingers and preach some stern moral high ground but our own god teaches us tolerance and forgiveness, go figure we just never learn do we.

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