Dec 15, 2003
Two panels set up by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) are about to decide whether the so-called "morning-after" pill can be sold over the counter. The medication currently is available only with a prescription.
If this were treated like a cough medication released for ordinary purchase in a pharmacy, the FDA would simply look at scientific studies about the medical aspects of this medication. Is it safe for people to buy, much like they buy aspirin or any other medication sold in pharmacies? Does its usage need to be closely monitored by a doctor?
But the "morning-after" pill is not just any medication. It is a birth control medication – to be taken within 72 hours after a woman has unprotected sex or has sex during which mechanical birth control devices fail. It's obvious that because of the short time frame, getting a prescription in many cases will not be possible.
If the issue were to be decided simply on its medical merits, the panels would take the advice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics. They all favor releasing it for ordinary sale.
But this question will not be decided on medical merits alone. The FDA panels are taking testimony from religious groups with no medical expertise, but who demand to be heard because they oppose abortion and birth control – the so-called "Christian right" and the Catholic church. Moreover, the FDA panels themselves contain people whose main "expertise" seems to be their opposition to abortion or birth control.
It's an outrage. If these reactionaries, whose religious views make them act as though they are living in the 15th century, before the spread of scientific knowledge, that's their business. If they want to put blinders on themselves, let them. But how dare they try to impose these unscientific views on everyone else! How dare they try to interfere in the lives of women in this country, the vast majority of whom want the option to choose birth control and abortion if they need them!