NOTE: This is a guest blog post by Chris Iseli, Director of Communications at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
You’ve been reading about birth control in the news over the last few days as a full-scale political drama unfolded with speed and fury. At the end of the day, the news is good: All women will be able to get regular birth control without a co-pay of any kind.
This is huge. It puts family planning within reach of all. And it came about because of sound scientific evidence that proved contraception has an enormous impact on womenís health.
Yet even as women take satisfaction in this giant leap forward, they should know they are being denied on a separate but related front.
In December, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, ignored conclusive scientific research when she overruled the Food and Drug Administrationís recommendation to make emergency contraception, commonly known as the morning-after pill, available over the counter without restriction.
This week, the Center for Reproductive Rights asked a federal court to reopen our lawsuit against the FDA and put an end to these unnecessary, baseless restrictions and an end to playing politics with women’s health. And because Sebelius’s decision is the subject of the litigation, we’re also asking the court to add her as a defendant.
The Center has been battling the FDA for more than a decade. Political pressure led the agency to ignore the evidence and refuse are attempts at liberating this medication from a bureaucratic stranglehold. But we convinced a federal judge of the medication’s safety and value and have secured greater–but not total–access.
A wide body of research indicates that emergency contraception is as safe as aspirin and cold medicines. There’s no reason Plan B and similar emergency contraceptives shouldn’t be sitting in the same aisle, where all who need it can easily get it.
The FDA has plenty of science proving the safety of emergency contraception. That’s exactly why the agency’s scientists have repeatedly recommended its unrestricted availability to women of all ages. But in an astonishing, unprecedented move, Secretary Sebelius–a political appointee–overruled this entire body of evidence.
As a result, an important healthcare technology is kept beyond the reach of many women who need it.
President Obama wasted little time after taking office in publicly declaring his support for evidence-based decision making:
“Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration…. The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions.”
Now, it’s time for Sec. Sebelius to make good on the promise that the president has made–to stop putting political concerns ahead of science and bring emergency contraception out from behind the pharmacy counter once and for all.
Photo via Thinkstock