The fight for over the counter emergency contraceptives was taken to another level today, as U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton joined with representatives from planned parenthood and other pro choice groups at a media conference urging the approval of Plan B pill sales without a prescription.
Today at a community health center in Harlem, Senator Clinton led the finger pointing at both FDA and the Bush administration, calling for an immediate decision in favor of over the counter status. Senator Clinton and the concerned groups have a chit in their pocket. Acting FDA Commissioner Andrew Von Eschenbach is up for nomination to get the job permanently. Senator Clinton and her democratic colleagues are saying today they’re holding that nomination hostage until he makes a decision on Plan B.
Director of Advocacy Programs for Naral Pro-Choice New York, Mary Alice Carr joined the fight in saying “This is another one of those events that should never have to happen. No American should have to call upon its FDA to make a decision based on science. That should just be so. The fact that we have to stand here and say follow your own medical advice and put emergency contraception over the counter is almost insane.”
Catherine Abate from Family Planning Advocates, NY stressed the importance of more quickly bringing the emergency contraceptive to women when she said: “We provide thousands of prescriptions a year for E.C. Many of the women came in too late to give them E.C. and they faced unintended pregnancies.” Senator Clinton questioned the FDA’s morality.
“We are here to plead, number one that the FDA listen to the scientists it is a demoralized agency, and it has lost many of its top scientists. Will it abide by science and evidence and research or will it do the bidding of its political masters in the White House?” Proponents of Plan B and medical experts insist Plan B is not an abortion pill, it’s merely a contraceptive, and so should be available to all women of reproductive age.
Sen. Clinton added, “The Food and Drug administration is supposed to make decisions on two criteria, safety and efficacy. They’ve overruled that and substituted political judgment. There is a lawsuit currently in New York; evidence has been forthcoming that direction to do this has come from the white house.” Hillary demonstrates that a clear cut medical issue has somehow been swept up in the world of Washington politics.
Assemblyman Keith Wright from Harlem showed that bringing the plan b drug to over the counter status could severely impact individual communities: “Let me just say this: if we had Plan B, we would not have as many unwanted pregnancies, especially in communities of color,” stressing, “this is not an abortion, this is not an abortion, this is not an abortion.” The biggest debate right now is over age.
Barr pharmaceuticals, the makers of the drug, want it to be offered to fifteen year olds. The FDA has said, however that there is not enough research showing the drug is safe to offer to individuals under 18 without prescription. Another one of the big complaints is that Dr. Von Eschenbach wants to hold the company responsible if pharmacists don’t do a good job at enforcing the age limit policy that’s enacted.
If the enforcement plan put forth by Barr is not good enough in the eyes of Dr. Von Eschenbach, it could kill the over the counter status for everyone. But opponents like Senator Clinton say, that’s like holding tobacco or alcohol makers responsible if convenience or liquor store owners sell those products to minors, which is not the policy. That’s why there are outcries of a right wing double standard.