Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the decision of Food and Drug Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg to allow the wider availability of Plan B One-Step® (levonorgestrel, Teva Women’s Health, Inc.) without a prescription to all women of child-bearing age, more specifically to adolescent girls under age 17. This was the first time that a health secretary has ever publically exercised statutory authority to reverse an FDA commissioner. Moreover, Secretary Sebelius was fully supported by President Obama in this action.
However, today’s headline – “Sebelius: Decision to keep Plan B age restrictions not political” – is difficult to believe. Particularly, when Plan B decisions have almost always been political. See here and here.
It’s difficult when a career politician dismisses the professional advice of experts and claims that the decision did not involve political considerations. But what gives credence to the Secretary’s stand is: (1) her pro-choice positions as governor of Kansas, (2) the fact that she’s facing considerable opposition from well-known Democratic leaders around the country, and (3) her willingness to reconsider the issue if the manufacturers of Plan B reapply with additional data about the “significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.”
The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.