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Court Orders FDA to Make Emergency Contraception Available Over-the-Counter for All Ages

11:42 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

In a long-awaited decision released early this morning, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter to women of all ages, marking a major win for public health and women’s rights in a year that has seen science otherwise buried under an avalanche of anti-choice politics. In his decision, Judge Korman orders the FDA to make levonorgestrel-based emergency contraception available over-the-counter without an age or point-of-sale restriction.

Today’s order was issued in response to the Center for Reproductive Rights’ (CRR) renewed lawsuit against the agency seeking to expand over-the-counter access to all brands of the morning-after pill, including Plan B One-Step and Next Choice, to women of all ages.

The court has ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception available without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within 30 days, with the option to limit the change to only Plan B One-Step if the agency “actually believes there is any significant difference between the one- and two-pill products” and to require new labeling if necessary.

Women’s rights groups are celebrating the decision.

“Today science has finally prevailed over politics,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, which brought this and other lawsuits. “This landmark court decision has struck a huge blow to the deep-seated discrimination that has for too long denied women access to a full range of safe and effective birth control methods. “Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception. It’s a true victory for all women, especially young women, women without government-issued identification, and those who live in areas with limited pharmacy hours,” she added.

Susannah Baruch, interim president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, which has been a leading advocate for emergency contraception, concurred: “Today we celebrate a long overdue victory for all women. Our decade long struggle is finally over. Emergency contraception will now sit on store shelves allowing timely access to this important product used to prevent unintended pregnancy. We urge Secretary Sebelius and the FDA to move swiftly to put emergency contraception on store shelves and into the hands of women and couples who need it.”

In a statement, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health applauded the ruling:

For Latinas in particular, expanded access to emergency contraception is critical for making the best decisions for our families and ourselves. For too long, this important backup birth control method has been kept behind the counter and out of reach. Immigrant women and new Americans of all ages have been hit particularly hard, since they are less likely to have government identification. This decision removes one barrier for Latinas who need contraception — though others, like poverty, discrimination, language and immigration status, remain.

This victory came after a long and unnecessarily difficult battle that was marred by politics, irrespective of the political party in charge. (See timeline following article.)

The FDA first approved emergency contraception (EC) for prescription use in 1999. Subsequently, study after study showed the safety of EC for women of all ages seeking to prevent an unplanned pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. In 2003, the first application was made to the FDA to approve EC for over-the-counter (OTC) sales. And thus began a long game of politics that has spanned both the Bush and Obama administrations. First, the Bush administration refused to act to make EC available OTC, resulting in the first successful lawsuit by advocates to ensure that science, rather than politics, governed women’s access to this method of basic preventive reproductive health care. EC was first made available OTC for women ages 18 and older, though the science clearly affirmed its safety for younger women.

After years of advocacy and further scientific proof of efficacy and safety, it seemed that finally EC would be made available over the counter for all women. However, in a deeply controversial move in December 2011, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), overruled the decision by FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to approve over-the-counter sales of Plan B One-Step. President Obama publicly supported Sebelius’ decision, in what was widely seen as a political move. Public health, medical, and legal groups went into overdrive, conducting a wide-ranging public education campaign, launching a citizen’s petition, releasing statements in support of EC OTC, and filing the lawsuit that led to today’s decision, in which Judge Korman called Sebelius’s actions “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.” Said Judge Korman, “The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step and that of the FDA with respect to the Citizen Petition, which it had no choice but to deny, were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.”

“It’s shameful it has taken over a decade and a federal court order for the U.S. government to implement in policy what studies and experience have proven time and time again — emergency contraception is safe and effective and should be available for women of all ages,” said Janet Crepps, senior counsel for CRR.

Currently, EC is available to women ages 17 and older without a prescription; young women under 17 are required to obtain a prescription from a physician. Even for women 17 and older, however, the medication is available only at health clinics or pharmacies, upon request and with adequate identification.

This unique and unnecessary dual scheme, notes CRR, has impeded access even for women who are allowed to obtain the drug without a prescription, as evidenced by several studies, including one published in the journal Pediatrics earlier this year. A total of 943 pharmacies in five major cities were contacted twice by researchers at Boston University — once the researchers posed as a 17-year-olds and another time as physicians. The study found that there misinformation was common regarding who can take EC and at what age it is available without a prescription, creating barriers to timely access. According to the research, nearly 20 percent of the drugstores contacted denied the “17-year-olds” access to the pill.

With the court’s ruling today, drug companies can now apply to make EC available to women of all ages and at stores other than just pharmacies — eliminating human error in determining who can and cannot purchase the medication.

#####

CRR Emergency Contraception Case Timeline

July 28, 1999: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Plan B, an emergency contraceptive medication, for prescription use.

February 14, 2001: The Center for Reproductive Rights files a Citizen Petition with the FDA on behalf of over 70 medical and public health organizations to make Plan B available without a prescription or over-the-counter (OTC).

April 21, 2003: Women’s Capital Corporation, the manufacturer of Plan B, files an application with the FDA to make Plan B available OTC.

Late December 2003/January 2004: After a panel of FDA experts recommends approval of the Plan B application, Dr. Steven Galson, the head of the office responsible for making the final decision, informs his staff that the regular procedures won’t be followed this time, and that that office won’t make the final decision. (Jenkins deposition)

December 2003 to Jan 17, 2004: Galson confesses to a co-worker that he has to reject the Plan B application because he’s afraid he’ll lose his job. (Jenkins deposition) Dr. Janet Woodcock, the second in command at the FDA, tells a colleague that the agency first has to reject the application, then approve the drug later with an age restriction in order to “appease the administration’s constituents.” (Houn deposition)

May 6, 2004: The FDA denies the manufacturer application and suggests Barr, the drug’s new manufacturer, amend the application to request an OTC switch only for women 16 and older. (Barr revises the application; the FDA schedules a decision for January.)

January 21, 2005: After the FDA fails to meet its deadline, the Center files a lawsuit against the agency for ignoring science and holding Plan B to a different standard than other drugs.

August 26, 2005: The FDA misses its second deadline to rule on Barr’s application. In a peculiar move, the agency requests the public provide input over an indefinite period of time on how to dispense the drug.

February 24, 2006: The Center is cleared to depose high-level FDA officials. The New York magistrate judge cites strong showing of “bad faith and improper behavior” by the FDA.

June 9, 2006: FDA denies Citizen Petition for the first time.

August 24, 2006: The FDA agrees to make Plan B available without a prescription, but only to women 18 and older who can provide government issued identification. The FDA also requires that Plan B be sold behind pharmacy counters.

March 30, 2007: Center files for summary judgment in the case, arguing that the undisputed facts found in evidence gathered through discovery make it unnecessary for the court to hold a trial, and that the court should order the FDA to make Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages.

March 23, 2009: Court orders the FDA to approve Plan B for those 17 and older without a prescription and to reconsider the Citizen Petition and all age and other restrictions on OTC access.

July 10, 2009: The FDA approves Plan B OTC for those 17 and older. The FDA also approves Plan B One-Step, which is a product that consists of the same drug as Plan B but in one pill rather than two. Both Plan B and Plan B One Step are OTC for those 17 and older and prescription-only for those 16 and younger.

August 28, 2009: The FDA approves Next Choice, a generic version of Plan B, under the same regime: OTC for those 17 and older and prescription-only for those 16 and younger.

November 16, 2010: The Center files a motion for contempt of court against the FDA for failing to reconsider the Citizen Petition and the current restrictions on OTC access to Plan B.

December 1, 2010: After receiving FDA approval for prescription-only use, Watson Pharmaceuticals launches ella, another form of emergency contraception (ulipristal acetate).

February 7, 2011: Teva Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step, files a supplemental new drug application (sNDA) with the FDA so that the drug will be available OTC for women of all ages.

Dec. 7, 2011: HHS Secretary Sebelius takes an unprecedented step to block FDA Commissioner Hamburg’s approval of Plan B One-Step manufacturer’s application for OTC status, which included additional data that confirmed its safety for all-ages use. The next day, President Obama publicly supports Sebelius’s decision, “as a father of two daughters.”

Dec. 12, 2011: On the eve of a court hearing on the Center’s motion for contempt, the FDA denies the Citizen Petition for a second time based on a lack of teen-specific data for the two-dose medication, despite the volume of data before the FDA on two-pill emergency contraception products, which data for one pill products of emergency contraception confirmed.

Dec. 13, 2011: Judge denies contempt motion because FDA had ruled on the Citizen Petition the night before, but invites CRR to reopen the case. Judge notes striking similarities between recent actions and 2005-2009.

Feb. 8, 2012: CRR reopens its case, filing a motion for preliminary injunction and summary judgment for immediate relief that would allow OTC access for all levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives (both one and two pill versions) without any age or point of sale restrictions. CRR also adds Sebelius as a defendant and supplements the complaint.

February 16, 2012: Judge Korman issues Order to Show Cause to Defendants “why the FDA should not be directed to make Plan B available to those persons whom the studies submitted to the FDA demonstrate are capable of understanding when the use of Plan B is appropriate and the instructions for its due.”

March 9, 2012: Teva Women’s Health, Inc., the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step, files a motion to intervene in the case.

April 27, 2012: Hearing held on Court Order to Show Cause and Motion of Teva Women’s Health to Intervene.

April 5, 2013: Judge Korman orders FDA to make levonorgestrel-based emergency contraception available over the counter without age or point of sale restriction.

Emergency Contraception Should Be Available Over The Counter. And You Can Make That Happen

11:56 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kirsten Moore for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Plan B on the shelf - in Canada.

Last week’s announcement from the esteemed American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), suggesting it’s time to make oral contraceptives accessible without a prescription, is the perfect way to re-ignite and re-engage public conversation about making emergency contraception (EC) available without restriction. We cannot afford another decade of political delays when it comes to common sense measures to improve women’s health.

Doctors are taking the lead by acknowledging they’ve become unnecessary obstacles between women and their birth control. That is an example politicians need to follow. Medical science, not political ideology, should govern which products are safe and effective. It is clear women of all reproductive ages will be better off when emergency contraception is easily accessible and in their hands.

One year ago next week the Food and Drug Administration was poised to announce that EC had been approved for on-the-shelf access, such that it could appear at your local pharmacy between condoms and pregnancy test kits. But Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped in at the last minute and ruled that Plan B One-Step and its generic equivalent must remain behind-the-counter. That decision led to confusion and unnecessary obstacles for women, teens, and couples at the very moment clarity was needed most. For example, we know that:

  • Doctors and teens have been given misinformation about the age restrictions applied to emergency contraception over the counter (currently 17) or told that teens could not get the product at all (not true). This confusion helps no one.
  • Men have been told by pharmacists in several states around the country that they could not buy EC (not true), presenting obstacles and delays when timing matters.
  • Rape survivors have been denied access to EC by doctors and prison staff.
  • Individuals without government issued identification may have difficulty accessing EC because of the restrictions.

In addition to the practical confusion the Sebelius ruling created, it also set a dangerous policy precedent. Never before has HHS overruled the FDA on a product that had been as thoroughly vetted and researched as EC. To the extent the concern about teens accessing EC was something the Obama Administration didn’t want to have to deal with during the election, they should clearly understand now that the women, young voters, and communities of color who stood in line at the polls did so in part because access to contraception, and the choice it represents in all our lives, is important.

For example, today 82 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended. Seventy percent of  teens in New York City who became pregnant between 2011-2012, dropped out of school Increased, evidence-based access to EC  could give these teens a second chance to prevent pregnancy and stay in school. But research reveals that because of widespread confusion, 50 percent of teens seeking EC were told the wrong age requirements for buying it. 

The science supporting EC hasn’t changed, but the politics sure have. We need to send a clear signal to Secretary Sebelius that women’s reproductive health and medical science should be the driving force behind public policy. A broad coalition of medical professionals and advocates is launching a petition today to urge Secretary Sebelius to revisit the evidence and remove the restrictions.

Please sign it and share it with your friends. Engage people in conversation about the important issues on social media and help demonstrate the strong consensus for common sense public policy that puts health and science over political ideology. We want to get as many signatures as possible before the one-year anniversary of the Sebelius decision on December 7th, please sign, share, and continue to make your voice heard.

Read the rest of this entry →

Why EC=BC: Emergency Contraception is a Form of Birth Control

9:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Miller for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This article is published as part of our 2012 Back Up Your Birth Control series.

The claim started out on the lips of the Catholic bishops and anti-choice activists: Obamacare will mandate coverage for abortion-causing drugs – by which they meant emergency contraception (EC), a form of birth control (BC) that does not actually terminate a pregnancy. But that little detail didn’t seem to matter. Soon anti-choice politicians jumped on the bandwagon. Before long the mainstream media was uncritically repeating the mantra. In a moment of directorial carelessness or simple misunderstanding, a popular television show even got in on propagating the lie that emergency contraception is an abortifacient.

Today is the 11th Annual Back Up Your Birth Control (BUYBC) Day of Action. For 11 years, this campaign has served a dual purpose: increasing consumer knowledge about EC and advocating that it be available and accessible for anyone who needs a second chance to prevent pregnancy.

For more than a decade, the campaign has spread the word that EC is a safe and effective method of birth control that can prevent pregnancy when taken up to five days after sex, while also providing a forum for increased activism around making EC available over-the-counter for people of all ages. In a serious battle for women’s reproductive freedom, the Back Up Your Birth Control campaign has been a vehicle to infuse a little levity into the debate, reach new and diverse audiences, and keep ourselves sane. Using iconic pop cultural images, at-times irreverent messages, and guerilla-style tactics, thousands of people have engaged in street action, online activism, and good old-fashioned public education about this important birth control method.

It (almost) makes me feel old that I remember when a dedicated EC product was first made available by prescription in 1998, even though women’s health advocates knew for more than a decade prior that the hormones found in many birth control pills could be used after sex to prevent pregnancy. It (almost) makes me tired to remember that it then took constant advocacy, consumer education, lawsuits, court orders, and a scathing GAO report over the course of the next seven years before the FDA approved EC for over-the-counter access for those 18 years and older – a significant step yet one that ignored the scientific studies finding that EC was safe and effective for all ages. And it definitely makes me mad that, to this day, the “behind-the-counter” status conferred on this safe, effective contraceptive requires everyone to request EC from a pharmacist and present a government-issued ID to get it. What gives me hope is that, while the pace is glacial at times, there has been progress.

In 2009, we won over-the-counter access for 17-year-olds, and, this year, we anticipated science was finally – FINALLY – going to trump politics. The FDA was set to make EC available over-the-counter for all ages, which would have made EC available next to the condoms and pregnancy tests at pharmacies, grocery stores, and other retailers, without the need for prescriptions or proof of age. (For undocumented people, those too intimidated to ask the pharmacist for EC, or those in the suburbs or rural communities, where you might have to drive 20 miles just to buy a potato, much less EC, this would have been huge.)

But it was also too good to be true. In an unprecedented move, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius swept in to override the FDA’s decision. Then, the President – who so often speaks passionately as a parent who wants a better future for his daughters – made the groan-inducing claim that “The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect.”

We barely had time to regroup and take stock after this unscientific, but sadly unsurprising, attack on EC before we witnessed an even more powerful backlash of a different sort. Over the last two months, religious opposition to insurance coverage for birth control, right-wing resistance to the Affordable Care Act, and GOP presidential nominees’ attacks on family planning created a perfect storm of anti-EC propaganda that not only threatens to set our advocacy back by years, but risks discouraging women from using this safe, effective method of preventing pregnancy. And it’s not just consumers who are affected. Health care providers, pharmacists, educators, parents, and others also need and deserve to have correct and truthful information about what EC is, how it works, and who can purchase it.

This year, the Back Up Your Birth Control campaign is addressing the lies head-on. Our theme is as simple as it is scientifically accurate: EC=BC. EC is a form of birth control. It will not end a pregnancy – not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it is the best decision for a woman and her family. EC will not interfere with a fertilized egg that has already implanted. There is no controversy here, and the scientific and medical communities are unanimous. EC=BC.

So, hoping to reach beyond our usual suspects again this year, we have launched www.ECequalsBC.tumblr.com. Check it out, pass it along, add your own images and thoughts, and join with us as we refuse to leave misinformation unchallenged and insist on creating a conversation in which contraception – of any sort – is the norm and a no-brainer.

Political “Science:” The Ongoing Battle Over Emergency Contraception

8:56 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: us-mission/flickr)

(photo: us-mission/flickr)

Written by Claire Cooper for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. This article is published as part of our 2012 Back Up Your Birth Control series.

The influence of politics on science and women’s health was once again on full display late last year. In December 2011, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius blocked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of Plan B One-Step’s over-the-counter (OTC) status. It would have been the first time emergency contraception (EC) would be available without a prescription for women of all ages. Instead, it was the first time a HHS secretary overrode the FDA’s decision to approve a medication.

While Secretary Sebelius’ decision to intervene and block Plan B One-Step’s OTC status was shocking on several fronts—given the mounds of scientific evidence proving EC as safe and effective for adolescents and this Administration’s pledge to scientific integrity—those of us at the Center for Reproductive Rights saw it as “déjà vu all over again.”

We’ve been battling the FDA’s politicization of EC for over a decade—trying to hold the FDA accountable in federal court for treating EC differently than any other medication.

The Center initially filed a Citizen Petition with the FDA in 2001, on behalf of over 70 medical and public health organizations, asking the agency to grant OTC status to all levonorgestrel-based emergency contraception products available at the time.

Because the FDA failed to respond appropriately to both the Citizen Petition and applications from EC drug manufacturers, the Center filed a lawsuit in 2005 asserting that the FDA violated its own procedures, as well as statutory and regulatory mandates, by refusing OTC status for EC.

After the suit was filed, the FDA finally agreed to make Plan B, the leading two-pill EC brand at the time, available to women 18 and older without a prescription. But it remained behind the pharmacy counter and required government-issued identification.

By this time, it had become clear that politics was dictating the FDA’s decisions regarding EC. Four years after our lawsuit was filed, the federal court agreed and ordered the FDA to immediately grant OTC status to Plan B for women age 17 and older, and ordered the agency to reconsider the 2001 Citizen Petition.

It took another two years (and a motion for contempt) before the FDA asserted that it would resolve the issues raised by the Citizen Petition by reviewing a supplemental new drug application (SNDA) for Plan B One-Step, a one-pill EC brand submitted for OTC approval in February 2011. The SNDA sought to switch Plan B One-Step to OTC status for women of all ages. That application’s approval was blocked by Secretary Sebelius in December, even though the FDA had concluded: Read the rest of this entry →

Denying OTC Access to Plan B Disproportionately Affects Latina Teens

3:25 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Administration’s 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

This article was changed at 12:05 pm on Tuesday, December 13th.  The original mis-identified the author. It is Jessica Gonzales-Rojas. We apologize for the error.

Last month a ten-year-old girl in Puebla, Mexico gave birth, via c-section, to a premature infant. The girl says her stepfather raped her repeatedly. She only spoke out about the abuse after she gave birth when the glare of public attention gave her some measure of safety. Her stepfather immediately disappeared. This story has received wide attention in the Spanish language press and has sparked anger across Latin America.

I immediately thought of the girl from Puebla last week when President Obama expressed concern that an 11-year-old might go to a drugstore and purchase emergency contraception along with “bubble gum and batteries” because the drug could “have an adverse effect.” The image of a young child casually purchasing birth control was used to describe the “common sense” reasoning behind his administration’s refusal to allow the FDA to make emergency birth control available to young women below the age of seventeen. President Obama invoked the image of his daughters when discussing the drug store scenario, but I imagined the girl from Puebla, standing at the checkout counter with birth control, bubble gum and batteries in her hands. The profound injustice of her life brought me to tears, and the trivialization of her situation, as if girls at age ten would be purchasing birth control with the same weight that they would purchase the bubble gum, is enraging.

Whether President Obama was compelled to weave the bubble gum narrative for political gain or because it truly reflects his thinking, the result is the same. Complex sexual health issues get overly simplified, society focuses on stigma more than solution, and young people are left with policy decisions that don’t begin to match the weight of their lived experiences nor keep them “safe.”

What is repeatedly lacking in our narratives about adolescent sexual health is a human rights perspective. If our society were to seriously contemplate how to help children who are victims of sexual abuse, it would not be to make birth control access harder for teens. This tunnel vision ignores the complex social factors that foster abusive environments, and ignores the dignity and justice that every child deserves.

A real discussion about emergency contraception would focus on addressing the real needs of teens. Yet due to the structural barriers that our politicians and healthcare industry have erected, most Latina teens will not realistically be given this last chance to prevent an unintended pregnancy. More than any other racial or ethnic group, Latinas lack health insurance and their households struggle economically. Teens without health insurance or money will need to seek out a healthcare provider to write a prescription, collect the $50 for the co-payment to fill the prescription, and to take the pills within three days of unprotected intercourse. Furthermore, Latina teens that encounter additional barriers due to their immigration status or limited English-language proficiency are even more isolated. No one reasonably believes this is a recipe for success.

There has always been strong political interference in FDA rule making about emergency contraception. Politicians simply can’t let scientists and public health experts do what’s best for our young people. That’s why years ago the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit (Tummino v. Hamburg), which resulted in the court directing the FDA to make emergency contraception available to teens age seventeen and above. And that’s why today our lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights will be back in federal court fighting against the continued political interference in healthcare access for younger teens.

A Young Doctor’s Response to President Obama’s Plan B Failure: Where Is the Scientific Integrity?

11:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Broken Caduceus (Photo: truthout/flickr)

Broken Caduceus (Photo: truthout/flickr)

Written by Dr. Megan Evans for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted in partnership with Amplify Your Voice. See all our coverage of Kathleen Sebelius’ 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

Like most of the pro-choice community, I was shocked by Secretary Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services overruling the FDA’s decision to make Plan B over-the-counter and available for all ages. This was unexpected, unprecedented, and extremely unfortunate.

Experts, who we count on for guidance and sound evidence-based medicine, have repeatedly shown Plan B to be not only extremely effective, but incredibly safe. Although the experts in the FDA agreed with the well-researched and well-presented data on Plan B, Secretary Sebelius and President Obama chose to ignore their expertise and base their decision on politics, not science.

Not only is this infuriating, but hypocritical. A certain document found on WhiteHouse.gov by The Obama Administration dated March 9, 2009 expresses quite the different sentiment. Interestingly, this release from The White House Press Secretary is entitled “Scientific Integrity” and the first line states “[s]cience and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health…”

I suppose I missed the footnote that implied exceptions for family planning.

As I read the press releases on Secretary Sebelius’ decision and the news about President Obama’s unwavering support of her overruling, I could not help but pick apart their few but telling remarks:

President Obama stated that ten- to 11-year-olds would be able to buy Plan B next to “batteries and bubble gum,” potentially putting these young girls at risk for adverse events if they did not use Plan B correctly. Interestingly, Tylenol is over-the-counter and far more dangerous with far more potential for adverse outcomes. Oh, and pregnancy in a ten- to 11-year-olds also has FAR more adverse outcomes than a small, but effective dose of Plan B. Read the rest of this entry →

Disappointed Doesn’t Cut It Anymore: A Mother’s Rebuttal of President Obama’s Plan B Politics

1:38 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kate Stewart for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of Kathleen Sebelius’ 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

Disappointed doesn’t cut it anymore.

Disappointed, angry, dismayed — these are only some of the emotions I am feeling this afternoon after hearing President Obama’s poor excuse for restricting access to Plan B One Step.

I am also scared.

Scared about the health of my daughters.  As the mother of two daughters, just like President Obama, I try to use “common sense” as much as possible. But, also like President Obama, I am not a doctor; I am not a scientist. I use my own judgment when it comes to things I am confident I can handle — a case of the sniffles, a little cold.

But, I also understand that it is my responsibility as a parent to know when I don’t know all the answers and it’s time to turn to experts. And that, apparently, is where the President and I disagree.

When my daughter’s pediatrician gives me medical advice, I listen. Carefully. American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine make recommendations about my daughters’ health, that matters to me. A lot. And I believe it should.

Today, President Obama has made the irresponsible – and nearly incomprehensible — decision to support HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ move to block the FDA from expanding access to Plan B One-Step emergency contraception. Whether the President’s decision was motivated by well-intentioned ignorance or political cowardice is beside the point. Either way, this move will adversely impact millions of women, particularly young women, across the country.

President Obama has decided to ignore scientific research and medical advice and has sacrificed the health of young women. And I want to know why. Why, Mr. President? Why would you reject years of research and the best scientific thinking the medical community has to offer? Why, for the first time in U.S. history, did your administration intervene to overrule the FDA’s ability to make decision about medical science? Read the rest of this entry →

After the EC Decision, A Lifelong, Third Generation Democrat Wonders Where She Belongs

11:50 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Kathleen Sebelius (Photo: americanprogress, flickr)

Kathleen Sebelius (Photo: americanprogress, flickr)

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of Kathleen Sebelius’ 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

President Obama visited Osawotamie, KS on Tuesday and gave a speech about the economy.  His speech focused on fair play, fair shares and fair shots for all citizens.  I went to Osawotamie to ask the President to extend that message of fairness to the women of the nation, regardless of the religious affiliation of their employer.  I went to the speech to represent the interests of a coalition consisting of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, MoveOn.org and Kansas NOW.  The following is from our press release…

President Obama has continually spoken out about his administration’s commitment to women and women have supported the President in many of his initiatives, including the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

We stand united in Kansas, encouraging the President to honor his commitment to all women by standing in firm opposition to the expansion of the conscience clause of the birth control mandate within the Affordable Care Act.

Peter Brownlie, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said, “President Obama should reject efforts to take away the birth control coverage benefit from millions of Americans who work at religiously-affiliated hospitals, universities, schools, or organizations.  These are nurses, teachers, janitors, and other workers who should not be discriminated against and denied a benefit that the vast majority of Americans will receive.”

Kari Ann Rinker, State Coordinator of Kansas NOW stated, “We ask the President to stand up to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other opponents of contraception and just say no to the continued bullying of corporate religious interests, whose demands run counter to the individual conscience of the millions of women who could potentially be effected by this expansion. The President’s vague answers and lack of official statement on this subject is disconcerting.” Read the rest of this entry →

How to Stop the Right’s Campaign Against Rape Victims

8:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by June Carbone for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This post was originally published at New Deal 2.0, a project of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

The Republican leadership is at it again. House Republicans rode into office on claims that President Obama and the Democratic Congress were promoting a “liberal” agenda rather than focusing on the real task at hand — job creation. Yet the first act of the new Republican House was a symbolic repeal of health care followed by a focus on the true conservative passion: regulating the sex lives of the most vulnerable and politically powerless women. The latest proposal, which would limit benefits for rape victims unless they could show that the rape was “forcible,” reintroduces a distinction that women fought for decades to eliminate — the notion that “real rape” can only occur when a stranger jumps out of the bushes and holds a woman at gunpoint. Otherwise, the woman must necessarily be complicit in the resulting pregnancy and should be forced to bear the child.

Anyone who seriously cares about women’s lives will oppose the measure. Merely trying to defeat it, however, is not enough. It continues the practice of letting the far right define the reproductive debate while those who champion reproductive justice play defense. It is time to turn the tables and propose practical changes that would actually cut public expenditures, protect rape victims and make the anti-women animus that motivates these proposals visible for all to see. Read more

In Maryland Hospital Debate, Women’s Health Ignored

8:35 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

It seems another fight is brewing over Catholic hospitals and reproductive health care – this time in Maryland. Adventist Healthcare, based in Rockville, MD, is challenging the recommendation of Maryland Health Care Commission chair Marilyn Moon and with it a Catholic hospital’s request to build a multi-million dollar hospital in the state.

According to Adventist, Moon’s findings were unsubstantiated and flawed – in part as they relate to reproductive health care availability in the state. Holy Cross Hospital’s newest proposed center would not offer the range of reproductive health care women in the community need – including fertility treatments, abortion and hormonal contraception.

The Washington Post reports that, for “two years, the two health-care giants have waged a costly and intense competition for state approval of a new hospital in Montgomery’s fastest-growing region.” Adventist wants to build a hospital a few miles to the north of where Holy Cross has proposed its new center. But Moon says that Holy Cross’ proposal, to build on the Germantown campus of Montgomery College, was superior. She also noted that Holy Cross has “a track record that is equal to or better than that of the Adventist hospitals ‘with respect to quality of care, community benefits, and efficient and effective management.’”

In response to Moon’s recommendations, Adventist filed a 105-page document of exceptions today with the Maryland Health Care Commission, asking them to “reopen the comparative review of upcounty hospital projects because…the recommended decision…” is flawed.

In direct response to Adventist’s concerns that Holy Cross does not provide critical reproductive health care services to women, Moon wrote, “I do not find that approval . . . would have a substantial negative impact on the availability or accessibility of the services that [Holy Cross Hospital-Germantown] will not provide, because it will be adhering to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.”

A host of local and national women’s groups had raised concerns about Holy Cross’ refusal to provide many health care services the women of Maryland need including the Maryland Coalition for Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, The MergerWatch Project, and the National Women’s Law Center. Read more