[Mb-civic] Saving Plan B from the zealots - Ellen Goodman - Boston
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Fri Sep 16 04:02:05 PDT 2005
Saving Plan B from the zealots
By Ellen Goodman | September 16, 2005
NOW THAT we have waved ''Bye, Bye, Brownie" to Michael Brown, the
hapless head of FEMA, could we turn our sights back to another agency on
the skids: the Food and Drug Administration?
If FEMA is an example of a government run on cronyism, the FDA has
become a portrait of a government run on ideology. After its blunders
over Vioxx and defective heart devices, it has now deliberately tanked
the homeland emergency contraceptives.
Days before Katrina hit New Orleans and flooded the news, FDA chief
Lester Crawford announced that he was indefinitely postponing the sale
of Plan B over the counter. As Susan Wood, the respected head of the
FDA's Office of Women's Health, said when she resigned in protest,
''This time delay is denial."
I will spare you the long, convoluted history of the morning-after pill
and the FDA. Plan B was planted firmly in the common ground in the
culture wars. Pregnancy prevention is, after all, abortion prevention.
It's something we agree on.
Putting Plan B on the drugstore shelf would mean that women who had
unprotected sex or contraceptive failures could easily and quickly
But under pressure from the prolife fringe that insists against all
evidence that emergency contraception is abortion in disguise, the FDA
caved. Executing a fandango that Karl Rove would admire, the FDA first
boxed the manufacturer into seeking permission for over-the-counter
sales only to those 17 or over. Then it rejected the adults-only plan on
the grounds that the pills could still fall into the hands of younger teens.
In the furor that followed, what no one dared suggest is that just maybe
teenagers should have the easiest, not the hardest access to Plan B.
Aren't the youngest precisely those who should be most protected from
pregnancy? Or do we still think that motherhood should be the punishment
A little background. This is a pill proved safe and effective for all
ages. There is no evidence that its availability increases sexual
activity. But there is a good deal of evidence that teenagers have
become the easy target in the struggle over reproductive rights.
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