Was the federal court right to lower age restrictions on Plan B?

Picture if you will: a 17-year-old girl in a pharmacy, the morning after, not a little horrified by her current dilemma. Whatever transpired the night before—carelessness with a boyfriend, date rape, stranger rape—she now finds herself in a race against time to keep from getting pregnant. “Plan B, Plan B” she tells herself, scanning the shelves, remembering that this high-dose birth control can effectively block a pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse (although it’s most effective within 24 hours).

Nearly all major industrialized nations have approved Plan B without restrictions for many years, recognizing it’s efficacy in preventing unwanted pregnancies. Now, thanks to Tummino vs. Torti, a recent judgment from the federal district court, the day will soon be here when 17-year-olds won’t have to get a time-wasting prescription for this perfectly safe contraceptive, once erroneously tagged as an abortifacient. Gone are the years of stonewalling and outright lies about the drug used by the Bush Administration to turn the FDA from a science-based to faith-based arm of the government.

The Tummino vs. Torti judgment exposes many “arbitary and capricious” acts masquerading as medical due diligence. With pressure from the White House, the FDA had stalled confirmation of Plan B’s OTC (over the counter) status for years, citing bogus safety concerns.

One particularly egregious tactic was when the administration claimed the OTC-switch advisory committee lacked a “balance of opinion”. ( I guess a cadre of medical and science professionals adept at research and clinical trials was a little too uniform.) Eventually, Right to Life ideologues with far less experience were tossed into the mix. Still, science won out and in 2003 the advisory committee voted 23-4 in favor of eliminating age restrictions on procurement of Plan B. That should have been the end of a long, hard fight, right? Wrong. The FDA rejected this advice, the only OTC-switch recommendation they rejected in10 years.

By approving the lowering of age restrictions on Plan B the court simply recognizes that 17-year-olds with the wherewithal to connect a reckless night with preventative measures deserve our support. What they don’t deserve, even if their judgment often falls short? A bunch of political kowtowing dressed up to look like best-practice medicine.

Was the federal court right to lower age restrictions on Plan B?

Picture if you will, the fact that if you repeat a falsehood often enough, people will actually believe it. Andy perpetuates the “politics prevented Plan B” myth repeated in loaded news stories. Since when did news reporters stop fact-checking? Silly question, I know.

The 2003 FDA advisory committee, stacked with leftover Clinton appointees, was the one putting politics over science. The FDA must be sure a drug is both effective and safe for its proposed usage, and Plan B has never been proven safe for over the counter use – especially for minors.

Plan B is the same drug as the regular birth control pill – which requires a prescription – only 25 times stronger! Since medical reasons (like avoiding blood clots) require taking the low-dose pill only under a doctor’s care, Bush officials were right to overturn the advisory committee’s blithe, unprecedented assurance that the turbo version would be fine without one, thank you. It was the only such case in10 years because it was the most absurd, unscientific decision in10 years.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, testified at that advisory committee meeting (“ground zero” she said in our interview), and explains, “there are activists and advocates for the drug on the committee,” not just the impartial scientists Andy believes.

Today, conservative warnings about Plan B have come to pass, and OTC nations like the U.K. have seen the inevitable consequences: women taking it 40 times in a row, schools giving it to 11-year-olds like candy, and health officials warning of serious health complications such as infertility. Federal District Judge Korman ignored all that, relying on incorrect information instead. (Maybe he’s been reading the news, too…) Wright pointed out, “His decision said Plan B would be 89 percent effective and decrease abortions – the same thing advocates originally said to get it OTC! Yet even prominent advocates of Plan B and medical journals now say it does not reduce pregnancies and abortions.”

Parents should be furious with a judge undermining their oversight and their girls’ safety based on a myth. “Teenagers,” Wright says, “still need a parental signature for tanning beds and field trips, but not to get a high dose hormone drug, with serious side effects.”

That is politics, not best-practice medicine.

319 comments Add your comment

Gandalf, the White!

May 15th, 2009
10:14 am

52/41…my bad!

Gandalf, the White!

May 15th, 2009
10:13 am

EXPAT: Someone has to do them Brazilians for all those Poor Russian Female Tennis Players!

Gandalf, the White!

May 15th, 2009
10:12 am

Gallop Poll says:
How many Americans are Pro-Life? 52%
How many Americans are Pro-Death? 42%


May 15th, 2009
5:33 am

… since we’ve spoken about military bands here in the past, I thought this newsy bit might be of interest (especially to people who like the bagpipes):

Some say that it is the most dangerous album ever recorded, but for the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, fighting and 40C (105F) heat were all part of a day’s work.

Last night the regiment’s 24 pipers were awarded the Best Album prize at the Classical Brit Awards, the first non-professional musicians to be recognised at the ceremony, for the record they produced in makeshift tented studios at their Basra base.

Spirit of the Glen: Journey was recorded in October, during the Dragoon Guards’ six-month tour of duty in Iraq. The regiment saw off stiff competition from established classical artists such as the tenor Andrea Bocelli and the mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins to triumph in the public vote.

Lieutenant-Colonel Felix Gedney, the regiment’s commanding officer, said: “It’s important for them not to forget that they are not a band for me. They’re my tank gunner, my lorry driver, my signals operator. I see them very much as soldiers first.”

— snip —

“The record is thought to be the first commercial album to be produced in a war zone and was recorded after technical staff from Universal Music took advantage of a lull in the fighting to fly out to Iraq. Tom Lewis, an A&R manager at Universal, said: “We did not appreciate what we had let ourselves in for until we were flying in total darkness in a helmet and full body armour. I was terrified. I suddenly realised what our Armed Services do on a daily basis. It was humbling. This is an album people risked their lives to make.” ”



May 15th, 2009
3:55 am

Gale –

“The news item doesn’t say what the governor’s changes might be”

I think it is clarification that churches can refuse to do a same-sex wedding — but that same sex couples can be licensed and married by the state (helloooo!!! that’s what we’ve been saying all along!!!)

so, Rhode Island … you’re up!!!

B-dog —

“you do have one heck of a sense of humor. ; > } (BTW, how do you guys make those emoticons?)”

yes. yes I do. (heehee) emoticon = [colon, dash, close parens] or [semi-colon, dash, close parens] :-) and ;-)

“Truett Cathy! When I shook his hand and thanked him for all of his charitable work, he only said “There’s so much still to be done”. Kinda choked me up for a second”

while I may not agree with TC’s position on choice, I do stand and salute the man for putting his $$$ where his mouth is and supporting adoption in a big,big way … not to mention, he really walks the walk regarding his observance of the day of rest. what a treat to meet him!

“If I could pick a dream life, it would be as a philanthropist”

GtG would, too … he would have hands-on outreach to Russian tennis players ;-)

happy Friday, all!!!


May 14th, 2009
9:16 pm

I had a touching moment at lunch today. While eating at a place called Upscale Pizza, an elderly gentleman approached me to thank me for coming–Truett Cathy! When I shook his hand and thanked him for all of his charitable work, he only said “There’s so much still to be done”. Kinda choked me up for a second.

If I could pick a dream life, it would be as a philanthropist. Now, if I could only make a few billion in the stock market….


May 14th, 2009
9:09 pm

“… and as far as being a hypocrite because I’m a democrat who likes pulled pork barbecue … I’m sorry, but I’m not following you …”

Ok, you got me there, USinUK–too funny. In spite of your horribly misguided political views, you do have one heck of a sense of humor. ; > } (BTW, how do you guys make those emoticons?)

You still have to dig a little to find a good BBQ place around Atlanta. I like it smoked and pulled, with the sauce on the side. Major faux pas if the sauce is already mixed in with the meat. I only like the Brunswick stew if it is chunky, and not runny. I usually prefer the baked beans.

“I guess they got tired of nobody reading their Op/Eds so decided to route everyone through the Opinion page.”

Well, hey, all the hip people are here already. Hope your week is going well. (insert smiley emoticon here)


May 14th, 2009
4:13 pm


May 14th, 2009
3:58 pm

The news item doesn’t say what the governor’s changes might be. But I think he was generally favorable to the bill.