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.