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Obama Administration Rejects Scientific Evidence and FDA Advice in Maintaining Restrictions on Emergency Contraception

December 7, 2011

Continues Barriers for Women Seeking to Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy

In a stunning setback for women’s access to healthcare services, President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has ignored the advice of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ease the restrictions on the sales of Plan B, a method of emergency, or after-sex, contraception. In a rare sign of public dissent within the administration, the FDA commissioner, Margaret Hamburg MD wrote, “I reviewed and thoughtfully considered the data, clinical information, and analysis provided by CDER [Center for Drug Evaluation and Research] , and I agree with the Center that there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.” This means that the proposal to remove the pills from over-the-counter status, and permit pharmacies to place them on shelves like other safe and effective oral medications, cannot now take place.

The president of Catholics for Choice, Jon O’Brien, said, “We know that conservative pharmacists around the country have treated women condescendingly, expressed contempt and even denied them access to a safe and legal contraceptive for no medical reason. Now, the HHS has overruled the scientifically and medically sound advice from the FDA that it was perfectly OK to remove these pills from OTC status. This is a deeply disappointing decision from an administration that promised us it would follow science and sound medical information in making policy decisions. Increasingly, on issues that women care deeply about, the Obama administration seems intent on taking us back to the future.”