During his Senate confirmation hearings, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester Crawford pledged to Congress that if confirmed he’d see to it that the FDA would issue a decision by September 1 on whether to approve the “morning after” contraception pill Plan B. But on August 26, the FDA announced a new 60-day comment period that would delay its decision well past the stated deadline. And today, the Associated Press reports that Susan Wood, director of the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health, has submitted her resignation in protest over what appears to be another instance of the Bush Administration overruling the opinions of its own scientists.
Despite Crawford’s pledge, and despite the FDA’s finding that “the available scientific data are sufficient to support the safe use of Plan B as an OTC [over the counter] product … for women who are 17 years of age and older,” sexually active women and couples will have to continue to wait and see if they’ll ever be able to acquire the drug, which is manufactured by Barr Pharmaceuticals, over the counter. “I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled,” Wood said in an email.
Plan B uses a high dose of the hormone levonorgestrel (which is used in lower doses in traditional birth control pills) to prevent the fertilization of an egg after intercourse has occurred.
Opponents of making Plan B available without a prescription have cited a concern that girls under seventeen would be more likely to engage in “risky behavior” (in other words, sexual intercourse) if they had access to a day-after pill, increasing their risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases. But Wood and other women’s health advocates claim the FDA’s delay is political and has more to do with the Government’s anti-choice agenda. That the availability of dangerous and deadly addictive drugs like alchohol and tobacco without a prescription seems to mean so little to these allegedly “pro-life” activists and politicians, whose concern for the well-being of fertilized eggs seems always to trump any concern they may have for humans who already exist, makes their supposed worry about STDs seem disingenuous at best.