by Gretchen Borchelt
The Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and other groups recently announced that they filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are seeking to overturn the FDA’s August 2006 decision to approve emergency contraception (EC, otherwise known as the morning-after pill) for non-prescription use by women 18 and older. These groups are claiming that the FDA sacrificed women’s health, succumbed to political pressure, and violated the law. Come again?
The only way the FDA has hurt women’s health is by waiting so long to allow women to obtain EC without a prescription, and in continuing to require a prescription for women 17 and younger. Research has demonstrated – and the FDA’s own experts agreed – that EC is safe and effective for over-the-counter use by all women who may need it. Access to EC, which prevents pregnancy in case of unprotected sex, sexual assault, or birth control failure, is critical to women’s health.
The lawsuit is similarly misguided in claiming that the FDA acted because of “improper political pressure” by Senators Clinton and Murray, who put a hold on the confirmation of the FDA Commissioner last year. That hold was designed to get a final decision – they didn’t say what the decision should be – and they imposed it only after a decision was promised but never came. Plus, a study by the US Government Accountability Office and depositions from a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights show that the only improper political pressure exerted on the FDA has been by the Bush Administration.
Finally, the claim that the FDA violated the law by not following the proper rulemaking process and by imposing an age restriction is simply untrue. But don’t take our word for it – read a summary of the comments we submitted to the FDA with two former FDA Chief Counsels. They agreed that rulemaking was not needed and that the age restriction is legal (although unnecessary).
Seems like the Family Research Council and the other groups need to revisit what it means to be concerned about the FDA playing politics with women’s health.