AAUW Disappointed by Decision on Emergency ContraceptionDecember 09, 2011
AAUW was seriously disappointed by the Obama administration’s Wednesday decision, directly defended by the president, to block the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of selling emergency contraception to women without restriction. Along with the rest of the women’s rights community, AAUW expected the Obama administration to approve the over-the-counter sale of Plan B contraception — commonly referred to as the morning-after pill — without requiring a prescription. We are disheartened by this decision, especially since it seems to contradict the administration’s stated commitment to following science instead of politics when making decisions. Yet, as a statement from the director of the FDA makes clear, this decision was based on politics, not science.
Approved for use by the FDA in 1997, emergency contraception, or Plan B, prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. In March 2009, a federal judge in New York ordered the FDA to reconsider its previous decision to limit nonprescription access to emergency contraception to women ages 18 and older, asserting that the entire process had been influenced by “political and ideological” considerations imposed by the Bush administration. This decision made emergency contraception available over the counter to women 17 and older only. The FDA’s decision this week concerned whether to retain or lift this restriction, a change that AAUW supported.
AAUW encourages efforts to increase education about and access to emergency contraception for all women, including minors, and believes emergency contraception should be available without prescriptions or restrictions. Greater awareness of and improved access to emergency contraception could help reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion in the United States. AAUW supports the right of every woman to obtain medically accurate information about and access to safe and comprehensive reproductive health services. This is also why AAUW supports comprehensive sex education programs. The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the developed world.
The decision appears to be part of a worrying pattern from the Obama administration on women’s reproductive rights. For example, 2011 appropriations — at the president’s behest — reinstated the ban on Washington, D.C.’s, use of its own taxpayer money to fund abortions for low-income women. Additionally, the administration still has not fully rescinded the Bush-era “conscience clause” regulations, which allow health care providers to deny necessary medical care to women. Officials may also approve regulations that let certain employers deny contraceptive coverage to more than 1 million women who were guaranteed this coverage under the health care reform law.
AAUW has supported choice in women’s reproductive decisions since 1935. We need President Obama to do so as well.
Update June 21, 2013: In what will likely be the final event in a long chain of decisions celebrated by health care advocates, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the nonprescription sale of Plan B One-Step emergency contraception without age restrictions.