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 its efficacy in preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Now, thanks to Tummino v. Torti, a recent judgment from a U.S. 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 used by the Bush administration about the drug to turn the FDA from a science-based to faith-based arm of the government.
The Tummino v. Torti judgment exposes many “arbitrary and capricious” acts masquerading as medical due diligence. With pressure from the White House, the FDA had stalled confirmation of Plan B’s 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 FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs 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 it had rejected in 10 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 preventive measures deserve our support.
What do they not deserve, even if their judgment often falls short? A bunch of political kowtowing dressed up to look like best-practice medicine.
Andrea Sarvady (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer and educator specializing in counseling and a married mother of three.
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