IN ANNOUNCING HER RESIGNATION, Dr. Susan F. Wood did not resort to euphemism, those mealy-mouthed phrases about spending more time with her family or seeking new opportunities. Her e-mail broadside to friends and colleagues at the Food and Drug Administration, where she was until last Wednesday the director of the office of women's health, is but the latest documentation of the Bush administration's politicization of science.
The FDA's repeated refusal to grant over-the-counter availability to a morning-after contraceptive pill was "contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health," Wood wrote. "I can no longer serve as staff," she added, "when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled."
The furor is over a drug marketed as Plan B, available in most of the United States only by prescription. The FDA's own staff and the overwhelming majority of an advisory board recommended in 2003 that it be made available over the counter, as such contraception is in most of Europe. For one thing, the drug is most effective within 24 hours of intercourse. The delay and cost of seeing a doctor to get a pill deemed safer than Tylenol are obvious barriers to its effective use. Some states, including California, have made the pills available from pharmacists, though many refuse to provide it.