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On Plan B contraceptive, the White House gets it right -- finally

June 11, 2013|By Carla Hall
  • The White House has reversed course and dropped its opposition to making the Plan B contraceptive available over-the-counter to girls and women of reproductive age.
The White House has reversed course and dropped its opposition to making… (Getty Images )

The White House has smartly reversed its opposition to allowing girls of all ages to buy the Plan B One-Step contraceptive pill over-the-counter. The Obama administration still resists the sale of cheaper, more generic versions of the emergency contraception drug. That’s unfortunate, but at least the White House has stopped its long, drawn-out court battle over availability of a drug that scientific research and the Food and Drug Administration have found to be safe and effective for girls and women of all ages.

The FDA had decided Plan B should be available over-the-counter to all ages. But the  administration, in an overreach of its legal authority, ordered the FDA to limit its availability without prescription to girls 17 and older. U.S. District Court Judge Edward R. Korman overruled the administration in April and ordered that Plan B be made available to all without a prescription. But the White House kept fighting, filing an appeal last month, a move the Times criticized in an editorial.

It’s baffling that this president and his Health and Human Services secretary opposed the FDA’s decision in the first place. (Favorite line from Korman’s scathing opinion: “… normally the Secretary of Health and Human Services has no specialized technical expertise in this area. Indeed, it is safe to say that most of those who hold that position are not qualified to serve as commissioner of the FDA.)

In general, this administration has supported women’s reproductive rights — and ensuring that a female of any age who can get pregnant can also easily get an emergency contraceptive is one of those rights.

President Obama had publicly questioned whether a young girl, buying the drug on her own, would use it properly. But studies have shown that adolescents can and do use it properly and that the drug is safe for them.

Perhaps the president, the father of two girls, was channeling his discomfort at the idea of adolescent girls having sex without protection and then walking into a drugstore to buy emergency contraception without their parents' knowledge.

It’s understandable that parents are concerned about what their children, especially young ones, do. But compelling a girl to enlist her parents’ help in getting a morning-after pill if the girl is loath to do so won’t stop her from having sex; it will just stop her from controlling her risk of getting pregnant.

And why should availablity of Plan B be restricted when any boy of any age can walk into a store and buy condoms, as Meg Waite Clayton noted in our Op-Ed pages? (Note to sexually active girls of all ages: You should buy those condoms too.)

At a time when many states are trying to erode a woman’s reproductive rights, it’s heartening to see the White House finally make the right decision on this issue.

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