Sebelius Blocks Expansion of Morning-After Access

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blocked an FDA ruling allowing over-the-counter Plan B morning after pill access to underage girls -- that is, females 16 and younger.

WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s decision Wednesday that emergency contraceptives be sold freely over the counter, including to teenagers 16 years old and younger.

The pill, called Plan B One-Step, has been available without a prescription to women 17 and older, but those 16 and younger have needed a prescription — and still will because of Ms. Sibelius’s decision. In some states, pharmacists can write the prescription on the spot for teenagers. But the restrictions have meant the pills were only dispensed from behind the counter — making them more difficult for everyone to get. The pill, if taken after unprotected sex, halves the risk of a pregnancy.

This is was clearly a big mistake.

Studies have shown that the morning after pill is safe for use by underage girls, and, despite the administration's claims, underage girls can still receive over-the-counter access in 10 states, as well as prescription access everywhere. But still, it further limits options for girls who are in trouble. The Obama administration is clearly more worried about the optics here rather than the harm it will do to girls who need it -- the usual "abortion access for children" accusations from the right, etc. But the Republicans and the far-right are already calling liberals and Democrats baby killers and the like, I don't see the additional harm here other than a temporary roundelay of talk radio screeching.

All of that said, some of the histrionics on the left today are, as always, frustrating. Specifically, the charge that the administration and the Democrats have joined up with the Republicans and their War Against Women. Not even close. This administration has a stellar record on women's issues and, especially, women's health issues.

  • muselet

    I don’t like this decision, but I understand that it was politically necessary. Then again, I’m one of those people who thinks that science (Plan B is safe) and reality (teens have sex) should be taken seriously, so what do I know?


    • Scopedog

      “Then again, I’m one of those people who thinks that science (Plan B is safe) and reality (teens have sex) should be taken seriously, so what do I know?”

      Well, you know a lot.

      The fact that you also said, “I don’t like this decision, but I understand that it was politically necessary” means you know a hell of a lot more about politics than the denizens over at FDL.

      This decision isn’t an easy one to swallow, but I choose to believe that the Administration had a valid reason for reaching it.

  • D_C_Wilson

    Okay, so the administration is trying to take this issue off the table for the election and will probably and very quietly reinstate the ruling in 2013. It’s not perfect, but good luck hoping for even that half-measure under President Newt or Mittens.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      You’re probably right.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Yeah, you know, they believe that they’re entitled to achieve every last one of their progressive goals NOW. Never mind the fact that instead of trying to honestly change minds about the benefits of achieving said goals, they attack the most progressive president we will probably see in our lifetimes.

    • ThoseNerds

      Don’t worry President Newt will make sure women get all the rights they got coming to them…

      Elections matter, people.

    • ranger11

      These new leftists are just a pack of snarling jackals. They’re always upset about something and ready to be revved up about it. Chicken Little and Eeyore are their role models.

      • villemar

        Plus Tickle Me Emo, Debbie Downer, and any toddler in public that throws an epic temper tantrum, screaming at the absolute top of their lungs.

  • ThoseNerds

    This is an interesting situation. I can’t help but disagree that we should allow under age to do whatever it is they want to do. I understand the need for Plan B and I supports its availabilty. However, the idea that its “against the women’s movement” for minors to not be able to get it OTC is extremely hyperbolic. So what should the proper age be for Plan B then? Is 10 still ok, how about 9. I think drawing a line on age is hardly comparable to not allowing it OTC at all. If the Obama Administration said no to OTC for every woman then I would understand the outrage. The age restriction is not the death knell for women’s rights. I am a guy so my perspective is limited, as it doesn’t effect me in the same ways. I am certainly willing to hear women’s point of view here.

  • Jeff Fecke

    I disagree with the decision — strongly — but think we have to keep things in perspective here. Letting kids get Plan B when they can’t buy cold pills (which are also safe, and which, not for nothing, minors should also be able to buy) is going to be a tough sell politically. Those of us who disagree with this decision have work to do. We have to make the moral case as to why kids should be able to get them OTC, and that’s not up to the Obama Administration.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      I disagree with it, but I still don’t see it as a huge big deal. It just isn’t.

      • agrazingmoose


    • JWheels

      My comments to the wackadoo in the other comment thread notwithstanding, I disagree with the decision but also don’t think it’s a tremendously huge deal.

    • Chris Andersen

      Thanks Jeff. Yours is the approach I would like to see more on the left take when these kind of things happen, “I strongly disagree with the decision, but I understand why it was made. Our job is to now change the political environment so that the correct decision can be made in the future.”

      This is so much better than the standard assumption that, because Obama’s administration does not do what someone wants, that must mean they don’t want to do it.

    • Scopedog

      Good points, Jeff.

      “Those of us who disagree with this decision have work to do. We have to make the moral case as to why kids should be able to get them OTC, and that’s not up to the Obama Administration.” Definitely.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YM23FX2FBZEC3UVDPZRGCUBIZ4 staci

    This is was clearly a big mistake.

    You obviously don’t have daughters.

    As a mother with two daughters, I applaud this decision. There is enough happening in our children’s lives that we are unaware of, and not necessarily because we aren’t paying attention. A decision this huge should, at the very least, come with a parental conversation. Everybody should not be allowed to do everything just because they can. Somebody has to put the brakes on, and I wholeheartedly believe this is a good decision.

    • http://profiles.google.com/ibegone Nicholas Gallias

      Even better that they have to see a doctor to get the prescription within 72 hours? Say hello to coat hangers once again.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        Purely hyperbolic.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YM23FX2FBZEC3UVDPZRGCUBIZ4 staci

        Most of these young girls barely know how to put a coat on a hanger, much less that in times gone by women actually resorted to this as a method of aborting babies. IMHO, you’re really stretching it with this comment.

        • JWheels

          By your logic women have abortions every time a fertilized egg naturally fails to implant in the uterine lining.

          Plan B as the “abortion pill” is really nothing of the sort… it’s just another anti-women’s rights bogeyman. I don’t care if a woman is 16 or 19 or 35, it’s her body and absolutely her right to choose what happens not even her parents. You’re not even talking about a viable pregnancy here, you’re talking about preventing that situation from even arising.

          But I know I know, leaving a responsible option around is just going to encourage teenagers to have sex, because you know they just wouldn’t if plan B weren’t available.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YM23FX2FBZEC3UVDPZRGCUBIZ4 staci

            Huh? By my logic what? Here’s my logic, sir. As a parent, I understand that the time will come when my kid will get to make each and every decision in their lives, and I happily look forward to it. I’m totally okay with that. Until that point, as the parent, I will never support a child being able to get any medication (especially one with possible reprecussions both physically and psychologically) being made absent parental involvement.

      • JMAshby


  • JMAshby

    So the FDA ruled that girls under 17 could now obtain morning-after without a prescription, and Sebelious overruled that decision to maintain the current status quo.

    So nothing has actually changed from how it already was. Just a disagreement between the FDA and HHS.

    Sure I can see the merits of allowing the pill for those under 17 without a prescription, but I don’t feel that 1 year of difference warrants a big left freak-out.

    Of course a big left freak-out is almost as predictable at this point as is right freak-outs.