It isn’t every day that 14 Senators aggressively call out their own party’s Health and Human Services Secretary, imply that a major decision made their own party’s adminstration was not based on science, and demand proof to the contrary. But that’s exactly what’s happening right now in the dust up over the Obama administration’s decision not to relax restrictions on access to Plan B.
Fourteen Democratic Senators have just sent this letter to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelieus, repeatedly insisting that she produce a convincing scientific rationale for the decision:
Dear Secretary Sebelius,
We are writing to express our disappointment with your December 7, 2011 decision to block the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendation to make Plan B One-Step available over-the-counter. We feel strongly that FDA regulations should be based on science. We write to you today to ask that you provide us with the rationale for this decision.
As numerous medical societies and patient advocates have argued, improved access to birth control, including emergency contraception, has been proven to reduce unintended pregnancies. Nearly half of all pregnancies that occur in the United States each year are unintended. Keeping Plan B behind the counter makes it harder for all women to obtain a safe and effective product they may need to prevent an unintended pregnancy.
We ask that you share with us your specific rationale and the scientific data you relied on for the decision to overrule the FDA recommendation. On behalf of the millions of women we represent, we want to be assured that this and future decisions affecting women’s health will be based on medical and scientific evidence.
This letter — which is signed by Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillilbrand, Maria Cantwell and 10 male senators — is strongly worded stuff, particularly when directed at a Democratic president. It stops just short of accusing the Obama administration of deliberately ignoring science in making this decision. It also puts the administration in an awkward spot. Either it produces a scientific rationale that’s acceptable to these Senators, which will will be extremely difficult at best, or it will face more criticism for failing to justify its policy, reinforcing the sense that this Democratic administration abandoned science and put politics first.
It will also be interesting to see where these Dem Senators take this next. Hearings, anyone?