Senate Delays Vote on FDA Chief as Lawmakers Fight for Choice

Citing anonymous allegations on Wednesday against Lester Crawford, President Bush’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration, the Senate Health Committee has postponed a vote on his nomination. Crawford has been serving as the agency’s acting commissioner for over a year. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), the committee’s chair, announced on Wednesday, however, that the committee needed “more time to address issues that have been raised” about the nominee, reports the New York Times. Enzi refused to provide any details of the allegations. While the White House normally conducts background checks on presidential nominees, it is unclear if Crawford’s background check included the allegations, reports the Associated Press.

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) had already announced last week that they would block the confirmation of Crawford until a decision is made on granting over-the-counter status to emergency contraception (EC). Last month, Democrats repeatedly asked Crawford why the FDA had not reached a decision on status of the morning-after pill despite a 24-3 vote by FDA expert advisory panels to approve the pill for over-the-counter sales in December 2003. The agency is considering making EC more accessible amid nationwide controversy as pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions on religious grounds.

In response to the recent denials of important family planning prescriptions, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) held a rally on Thursday to launch the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act (ALPhA), legislation to stop pharmacies from denying the sale of physician-prescribed prescription medications because of their employee’s individual beliefs. “If a doctor gives you a legal prescription, no one should be able to stop you from getting it filled – it’s as simple as that,” said Rep. Maloney in a recent press release. “Access to birth control is a women’s health issue and a private matter, not to be tampered with by a pharmacist with an agenda.”

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Associated Press 4/13/05, Feminist Daily News Wire 4/7/05, New York Times 4/13/05, Senator Lautenberg Press Release 4/14/05

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