FDA expands Plan B contraceptive approval amid heated abortion debate

The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday it would allow all women and girls 15 years of age and older to buy the morning-after pill over the counter:

The administration’s move represents a historic liberalization of contraception rules — perhaps the most significant since the morning-after drug was approved 14 years ago. Today, Plan B is available to teenagers younger than 17 only with a prescription. Older women must request it from a pharmacist.

Last month, a federal judge ordered the FDA to make the pill available to all women over the counter, not just those who are 15 years of age. The administration’s partial compliance with the court order could indicate that it plans to appeal. (Read the judge’s decision here.)

Writer Diana Reese observes:

Many of my daughter’s friends were already on the birth control pill in high school — “for bad cramps” — which renders the availability of other birth control moot. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those girls suffered that much each month, or whether it put parents’ minds at ease that their daughters were protected from an unwanted pregnancy. . .


See abortion laws by state

For those teens who do engage in sex without birth control, or a method that fails, there is the option of the morning-after pill.

It could keep a bad decision from becoming worse. (Read the rest of her column here.)

The morning-after pill is a contraceptive that prevents pregnancies, not an abortion pill, but all the same, the FDA made its decision at a sensitive moment in the national debate over abortion and contraception.

An antiabortion group called Live Action released footage this week of doctors answering questions about how they handle unsuccessful abortions. On Tuesday, a jury entered deliberations in the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor accused of killing several infants born alive and one patient who prosecutors say died of an overdose of drugs administered during an abortion.

Groups opposed to abortion mentioned Gosnell’s trial in criticizing President Obama’s address to Planned Parenthood last week:

“When you read about some of these laws, you want to check the calendar,” Obama told the crowd at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest Washington. “You want to make sure you’re still living in 2013.”

The appearance underscored the central role women played in helping to reelect Obama in November. It also marked the first time that a sitting U.S. president has delivered a keynote address to Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of abortions and other women’s health services. . .

But abortion opponents sharply criticized Obama for his decision to speak to the group, saying it was particularly inappropriate given the ongoing controversy about a Philadelphia abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, who is on trial on charges of killing one adult patient and four infants in his care. Some women who had initially visited Gosnell’s clinic later complained to Planned Parenthood staff in Philadelphia about the unclean conditions there.

For more coverage of Gosnell’s trial, continue reading here.

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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