Obama said he did not get involved in the decision to require a prescription for girls 16 and under before it was announced, leaving it up to Sebelius.
But, he said: “I will say this. As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”
“And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old, going to a drug store, should be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteries,” purchase a powerful drug to stop a pregnancy, Obama said. “I think most parents would probably feel the same way.”
Women’s groups have reacted with alarm to the decision, and Obama’s remarks did nothing to tamp down the furor.
“It’s not good enough to say what you want for your own two daughters. The issue here is science and medicine,” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, said, describing herself as “dumbstruck” and “stunned” by the move.
Food and Drug Administration officials said they could not recall another time that the Department of Health and Human Services had vetoed such a decision.
“There is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential,” FDA Administrator Margaret A. Hamburg said in a statement, revealing a rare public split.
“However, this morning I received a memorandum from the Secretary of Health and Human Services invoking her authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to execute its provisions and stating that she does not agree with the Agency’s decision.”
In a statement and separate letter to Hamburg, Sebelius said she reversed the FDA’s decision because she had concluded that data submitted by the drug’s maker did not “conclusively establish” that Plan B could be used safely by the youngest girls.
“About 10 percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age. It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age,” Sebelius said.
Her action means that instead of being able to pick up Plan B off store shelves, like condoms and spermicides, girls 16 and younger still need a doctor’s prescription to obtain it. Women 17 and older can buy the pill without a prescription but must show proof of age to a pharmacist.