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The Political Hijacking of "Plan B"

The Political Hijacking of "Plan B"
If you're a woman reading this "roll over and play dead" because you have just been raped by "politics."

Stop me if this sounds familiar: An administration, when confronted with science that doesn't conform with its political agenda, decides to rewrite it until it satisfies the conservative view.

I'll give you a second to let that glimmer of recognition shine through.

HEY "FDA" COME SAY "HI" TO STUPID OVER HERE: One would think that a pill that "reduces the demand for abortions" would make some antiabortion groups jump for joy. Instead, it's set us back to the stone ages.

THE BASICS: Plan B, a safe concentrated dose of the hormones found in normal birth control pills, is a form of emergency contraception. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex it can prevent pregnancy. The closer it is taken to intercourse, the more effective it tends to be. Plan B impedes both ovulation and fertilization and has been classified by the FDA itself as a contraceptive. This puts it in the same category as the pill and condoms.

You with me so far? Sounds very basic, right? Well, keep reading, but be warned you might spill your coffee over this one.

A few words of wisdom from newspapers around country:

The "highly unusual manner" in which FDA rejected Barr's original Plan B application leads to the synopsis that "the denial was based on politics, not medicine," according to a Register editorial. "FDA has used bureaucratic sleight of hand to deny easy access to a safe, effective contraceptive," the editorial says, concluding, "The result will be more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions" (New Haven Register, 11/21).

"FDA must be reformed from the top" because the agency has become "clumsy, impotent, too cozy with the drug industry and far from the trustworthy apolitical voice of science it must be if it is to protect the public," a Star-Ledger editorial says. The GAO report likely proves that "officials let antiabortion politics govern what should have been a scientific evaluation," the editorial says, concluding, "Congress should press the White House on why it has allowed a regulatory agency that had been ... regarded as a gold standard around the world to crumble into partisan mediocrity" (Newark Star-Ledger, 11/21).

It is "bad enough" that Plan B has "fallen victim to the culture wars," even though scientists think that the drug could prevent half the number of unplanned pregnancies and "hence, an untold number of abortions," a Sun-Sentinel editorial says. "But by allowing itself to become a tool of social conservatives," FDA has shown that "even more than the health and safety of Americans, it is driven to protect the health of whatever political movement it chooses," the editorial says (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/20).

FDA's handling of the Plan B applications is "another example of the Bush administration's approach to health policy: Ignore the science and indulge activists on the right," Journal columnist Harrop writes in an opinion piece. Some opponents of Plan B see the drug "as a green light for teenagers to have sex," but "there is little merit in the argument," Harrop writes. Sexual activity among teens is a concern, but Plan B is an "extension of the birth control pills, diaphragms and condoms that teens already obtain," Harrop says, adding that while Plan B cannot "stop teen promiscuity," it "could stop teen pregnancy" (Harrop, Providence Journal, 11/21).

With conservative Republicans in charge, this Congress probably won't be forcing the Food and Drug Administration to put the emergency contraceptive Plan B on pharmacy shelves. Advocates have already turned to another venue: the courts. According to the lawsuit, Crawford and FDA officials have not only ignored "sound science," but have held Plan B to a "higher and different standard" than other over-the-counter drugs. "Our lawsuit shows that the FDA is breaking its own rules," says Center for Reproductive rights staff attorney Nan Strauss. The Justice Department has been trying to get the suit thrown out, but Strauss and her colleagues think the GAO report will only bolster their case. A court proceeding is slated for December 20 at the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of New York. Strauss says, "It's clear the agency wasn't doing its job or taking science into account." (Village Voice, New York 11/23)

A second application to sell Plan B over the counter has been filed, and again the FDA has postponed a decision, meaning it could be years before the FDA acts on it.

Ladies, please don't let this one get buried under a pile.

By Henry Cruz














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