Fourteen Senators Ask Sebelius for Data Justifying Administration’s Decision Denying Teens Access to Plan B

Today, 14 Senators, 13 Democrats and one independent, wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her to provide them with the scientific evidence and rationale for her decision to deny access to Plan B to teens over the counter

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See all our coverage of the Administration’s 2011 Emergency Contraception Reversal here.

An error in this article was corrected at 9:17 pm on Tuesday, December 13th.  The earlier version incorrectly stated 14 Democrats signed the letter to Sebelius. The actual tally is 13 Democrats and one Independent, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

Last week, both President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by refusing to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter (OTC), despite the FDA’s recommendation to do so. They suggested their decision to deny vulnerable teens access to emergency contraception was based on the lack of evidence on whether young teens would understand how to use the method and whether there might be unknown risks.  These statements came despite a wealth of evidence–ten years worth–supporting OTC access to all females of reproductive age, and despite the fact that untold numbers of OTC drugs have far more dangerous potential side effects than any potential adverse effects of Plan B. 

This was poilitics clear and simple. 

Today, 14 Senators, 13 Democrats and one independent, have written to Sebelius asking her to provide them with the scientific evidence and rationale for her decision.

The letter is as follows:

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius

US Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

We are writing to express our disappointment with your December 7, 2011 decision to block the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendation to make Plan B One-Step available over-the-counter. We feel strongly that FDA regulations should be based on science.  We write to you today to ask that you provide us with the rationale for this decision.

As numerous medical societies and patient advocates have argued, improved access to birth control, including emergency contraception, has been proven to reduce unintended pregnancies.  Nearly half of all pregnancies that occur in the United States each year are unintended. Keeping Plan B behind the counter makes it harder for all women to obtain a safe and effective product they may need to prevent an unintended pregnancy.

We ask that you share with us your specific rationale and the scientific data you relied on for the decision to overrule the FDA recommendation. On behalf of the millions of women we represent, we want to be assured that this and future decisions affecting women’s health will be based on medical and scientific evidence.

The letter was signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Carl Levin (D-MI), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).