Women: Don't be fooled by the FDA on Plan B
The Food and Drug Administration would like women to believe that the Morning-After Pill (brand name Plan B) will finally be made available over-the-counter, as soon as they work out some remaining "policy issues." Don't be fooled. The FDA is not considering putting Plan B over-the-counter. Instead, they want to limit its sales to women 18 and up and put pharmacists in control of the pill. This latest move is just another in a long list of delay tactics designed to keep this safe and effective form of birth control out of women's hands.
It's clear that the FDA can no longer be counted on to make decisions based on science. Three years ago the FDA's own scientific advisory committee voted overwhelmingly to make Plan B over-the-counter for women of all ages. Instead of following the committee's recommendation, the FDA caved to political pressure from the White House. Morning-After Pill access has become a key battle in the Bush Administration's wider assault on birth control, already demonstrated by its advocacy for failed abstinence-only education and support of pharmacists who refuse to fill women's birth control prescriptions.
I am lead plaintiff in a lawsuit Tummino v. von Eschenbach charging the FDA with applying a sexist double standard to Plan B that it does not apply to other drugs. The lawsuit was filed in January 2005 by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of nine women and two organizations. Recently, a senior FDA scientist testified under oath that Acting Deputy Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock informed her of the need to appease the "administration's constituents" by rejecting over-the-counter status for women of all ages and then approving it later on with an added age restriction. This contradicts Woodcock's earlier testimony that she wasn't aware of any political pressure. (The depositions can be found online at http://www.reproductiverights.org/).
In order to uncover the full extent of the administration's influence on the Plan B application, our attorneys are requesting a subpoena to access White House documents. They also seek to depose Jay Lefkowitz, a former White House domestic policy advisor, regarding his conversations with former FDA Commissioner Marc McClellan during the FDA's review process of Plan B.
Along with eight other plaintiffs named in the suit, I am a member of the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy, a coalition of feminist groups that are fighting for full over-the-counter access for Plan B. We believe that if you are old enough to get pregnant, you are old enough to decide that you don't want to be pregnant. Not only does the age restriction violate young women's rights, it would effectively put Plan B "behind the counter" for all women. Women would have to find a pharmacy that stocks it, a pharmacist willing to dispense it and endure the sexist insult of being carded for birth control. Just recently, women in Olympia, Washington filed a complaint that they were unable to get a total of 17 prescriptions for Plan B filled over the last two months.
If Plan B were granted full over-the-counter status, it would be on the shelf next to aspirin and could be sold at gas stations and grocery stores. Given that it is most effective when taken within 24 hours after sex, women need immediate access to it. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the FDA's own scientists all agree that women of all ages need over-the-counter access. Now, the FDA expects women to jump for joy because they are making a move that only amounts to a fraction of what we really want.
Women are not fooled. The Morning-After Pill Conspiracy will continue to fight for over-the-counter access without restrictions. We are sponsoring an action at Health and Human Services (HHS) on October 13th 2006 where we will distribute Plan B to any woman who wants it, regardless of age. For more information please see www.mapconspiracy.org. Women should have all tools for preventing pregnancy at their disposal. Deciding when and if we are having children is a cornerstone of our freedom.
Annie Tummino is lead plaintiff in the lawsuit Tummino v. von Eschenbach and Chair of the Women's Liberation Birth Control Project in New York. For local information on the Morning-After Pill fight, call Stephanie at 380-9934.
Plan B is a hormonal contraceptive that can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 5 days after sex but is most effective within 24 hours. To find out where to get Plan B in your area, or to make it from regular birth control pills, log onto www.not-2-late.com
Join us for a panel discussion and Q & A. Learn more the Morning-After Pill and about the lawsuit against the FDA. Find out how you can get involved!
Wednesday Sept 27, 7:30pm.
Location on campus TBA.
Julie Johnson is Director of the UF Center for Pharmacogenomics and a member of the FDA Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee from 2000-2004. She was one of the 23 FDA medical experts who voted for over-the-counter access †to the Morning-After Pill.
Andrea Costello is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and one of the attorneys for the case Tummino v. Von Eschenbach, which is suing the FDA for sex discrimination regarding its handling of the Morning-After Pill application.
Jenny Brown is a member of Gainesville Women's Liberation and Redstockings of the Women's Liberation Movement. She is also a plaintiff in Tummino v. Von Eschenbach.
Stephanie Seguin is President of Gainesville Area NOW, Plaintiff in Tummino v. Von Eschenbach.
Sponsored by Gainesville Women's Liberation, Gainesville Area National Organization for Women and UF/SFCC Campus National Organization for Women.
For more info, call Stephanie at 380-9934.
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