Republicans in the US House of Representatives have written a letter to President Bush urging him to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from approving over-the-counter status for emergency contraception (EC). Led by Rep. David Weldon (FL), the 49 Republicans argued that making EC more available would increase risky sexual practices among adolescents, leading to increases in sexually transmitted infections, according to Reuters Health.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, when asked about the letter, said that “the decision is going to be based completely on science,” according to Reuters Health. Two expert FDA advisory panels at a joint meeting in December voted 23-4 to recommend FDA approval for Plan B, a brand of EC, to be sold over-the-counter rather than requiring a doctor’s prescription. Using the drug within three days of unprotected sex can significantly reduce the chance of getting pregnant, and the sooner the drug is taken, the more effective it is. In addition, advocates for over-the-counter accessibility of EC argue that it is often difficult to find a doctor to write a prescription in time, especially on holidays and weekends. Over-the-counter access to emergency contraception could prevent more than a million unplanned pregnancies and hundreds of thousands of abortions every year.
“The scientific evidence and public health imperatives propelling this request for EC are strong and undeniable. Access delayed is access denied,” said Dr. Beth Jordan, medical director at the Feminist Majority Foundation, who testified at an FDA hearing on EC in December. “For the sake of women whose lives and futures are at stake, please make this decision on scientific merit, not politics.” The Feminist Majority Foundation leads a national drive on college campuses to increase the availability of EC. At the FDA hearing on EC, FMF presented more than 30,000 student signatures gathered in support of EC and the results of a survey that highlights the lack of availability and inaccessibility of EC on our nation’s campuses.