US Judge Orders FDA To Give Pill To Young Girls
Thursday, 26 March 2009

American girls, as young as 17, can now buy birth control pill without a doctor's prescription from drug stores, a federal judge ruled on Monday. The ruling comes just a week after the government reported a sudden rise in teen pregnancy across the US, although it was not clear whether the judgment was influenced by the report.

In delivering his verdict, U.S. District Judge of New York Edward Korman said the Food and Drug Administration had improperly bowed to political pressure from the Bush administration when it set 18 as the age limit in 2006.

The F.D.A. has 30 days to comply with the order, in which the judge also urged the agency to consider removing all restrictions on over-the-counter sales of contraceptive pill, known as Plan B. The drug consists of two pills that prevent conception if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse.

Some women's health advocates hailed the decision.

"It is a complete vindication of the argument that reproductive rights advocates have been making for years, that in the Bush administration it was politics, not science, driving decisions around women's health," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a non-profit group that was one of the plaintiffs in the case against the F.D.A.

But some conservative groups voiced concern that the ruling could promote sexual promiscuity. "Now some minor girls will be able to obtain this drug without any guidance from a doctor and without any parental supervision," the Family Research Council said in a released statement.

Plan B has been available by prescription in the United States since 1999.

But because the drug must be taken so soon after intercourse to be effective, in 2001 more than five dozen public health groups, with endorsements from WHO and the American Medical Association, asked the F.D.A. to make Plan B available as an over-the-counter drug.

Not until 2006 did the F.D.A. rule, saying that the drug could be sold without a prescription only to women over 18. In order to enforce the age restrictions, the agency also ordered that Plan B should be stocked behind pharmacy counters, in contrast to other over-the-counter contraceptives like Condoms.

Judge Korman wrote that F.D.A. officials repeatedly delayed action on the over-the-counter petition, moving only when members of Congress threatened to hold up confirmation hearings on acting F.D.A. commissioners, including Andrew C. von Eschenbach. Several officials also violated the agency's own policies, the judge wrote.

Citing depositions in the case, Judge Korman wrote that agency officials improperly communicated with White House officials about Plan B. And F.D.A. employees sought to influence decisions by appointing people with anti-abortion views to an independent panel of experts reviewing Plan B for the agency, according to the judge.

The agency also departed from its normal procedures, the judge wrote, by ignoring favorable conclusions about the drug by an advisory panel, as well as its own scientists and officials who found that the drug could be safely used by women at least as young as 17.

Susan Wood, a former F.D.A. director of women's health who resigned in 2005 to protest the agency's handling of Plan B, said Monday that the judge's decision to send the drug back for F.D.A. reconsideration signaled hope of the agency's ability to act independently under a new administration.

Ms. Wood, now a professor of Public Health at George Washington University, further said, "There is a new chance to restore the scientific integrity of the F.D.A."


Comments Add New
Toronto |2009-11-04 15:45:14
This is absolutely insane, in Canada girls can buy Plan B like an advil, just off the shelf. Its not that it promotes promiscuity but promotes unsafe sex. My younger sister has informed me that most of her friends have taken it 2-4 times (they are 16-17) I know this doesn't seem a valid source, but it brought to my attention the fact that these young girls can have unprotected sex and then take plan b the next day like its no problem at all. Plan b should be used in emergency situations not out of laziness to use birth control pills or condoms. The fact that its too easy to get, and that there is no proper education around this really scares me. She told me her friend took it in an "emergency", this "emergency" did not involve sexual intercourse, you don't need to take plan B when performing oral sex. Where is the education? What are they learning in sex ed? Especially if "most girls" are taking it, and not just once but several times.. this screams a problem!!!
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