Opinion: Sebelius, teens and the morning-after pill


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After all these years of waiting, most teens still won’t get over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill? So much for respect for science in the Obama administration. Scientists, policymakers and advocates of access to birth control are scratching their heads -- and saying a lot of very heated things -- about the decision of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to take the unprecedented step of overruling the FDA, which had said the pill, known by the brand name Plan B One Step, should be available to girls younger than 17 without a prescription.

A body of more than 40 studies showed, time and again, that the pill was safe and effective in younger girls, and that they understood just as well as adults how and when to use the it. In early 2009, a court sent the FDA back to the drawing board on the issue because of that preponderance of scientific evidence. Yet Sebelius objected to the FDA’s new recommendation, reportedly saying that the studies hadn’t included girls as young as 11, about 10% of whom also could become pregnant.


Yes, and girls as young as 8 might not understand that they can’t get pregnant and might misuse the pill, but the chances are highly unlikely. For that matter, they might misuse acetaminophen, which could actually be quite dangerous to their health.

Has Sebelius long harbored this concern about 11-year-olds? If so, why hasn’t she expressed it? Or do you think something else is behind this unusual decision?


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