Bush Backs Over-the-Counter Sale of Abortion Drug

Just three days after President Bush signaled his support for selling the morning-after pill to minors with a prescription and to adults without one, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sale of the drug to adult women.

In an August 21 news conference, Bush was asked, “Mr. President, some pro-life groups are worried that your choice of FDA commissioner [Andrew C. von Eschenbach] will approve over-the-counter sales of Plan B, a pill that they say essentially can cause early-term abortions. Do you stand by this choice? And how do you feel about Plan B, in general?”

“I believe that Plan B ought to be—ought to require a prescription for minors,” Bush said. “That’s what I believe. And I support Andy’s decisions.”

Plan B is manufactured by Barr Pharmaceuticals and, if taken within 72 hours of intercourse, will terminate a pregnancy. Previously, it could be obtained only with a doctor’s prescription. Now, thanks to Bush’s acting FDA commissioner, it will be available over the counter to females providing proof they are over 18 and to minors with a doctor’s prescription.

Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.) echoed the President’s support for loosening restrictions for the drug. He told HUMAN EVENTS, “The FDA made this decision after much consideration. I think it’s appropriate for girls under 18 to have to secure a prescription for Plan B. That seems to be a reasonable and appropriate requirement, and I do support efforts by Virginia legislators to require parental notification for Plan B to be dispensed to minors. We should remember that Plan B is a contraceptive and should be treated as such.”

Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly characterized the President’s position as a “betrayal on what we expect him to do.” She said, “Plan B should not be authorized for sale. It’s an abortifacient.”

Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kans.) expressed similar disapproval with the President’s remarks. He said, “I am deeply disappointed that the administration would allow over-the-counter access to Plan B. I am saddened at any step that increases the number of abortions and increases the loss of life. It is reckless to allow an overdose of a prescription drug to be offered over the counter.”

Barr had placed their application with the FDA to approve over-the-counter sale of their drug three years ago. Shortly after his confirmation in July 2005 to become commissioner of the FDA, Lester M. Crawford ruled that the FDA lacked the authority to approve over-the-counter sale of Plan B.

When Crawford unexpectedly resigned last September without making a decision on the drug, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) placed a hold on Eschenbach’s nomination, preventing Eschenbach from becoming the permanent commissioner. They said in a joint statement, “For more than two years, the FDA has dragged its feet on making a decision, putting ideology over science. It’s past time for the FDA to quit dragging its heels.”

Just hours after the drug was approved for over-the-counter sale, the senators withdrew their hold. Clinton issued a “personal note of thanks” to her supporters in a statement that declared the decision “a victory for women’s health.”

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.) told HUMAN EVENTS that selling Plan B over the counter is “both irresponsible and dangerous.” He said, “The morning-after pill cheapens human life, and simply uses a woman’s body to dispose of the child instead of a doctor. It also puts them in harm’s way by making it more accessible, when studies have yet to be completed on its effect on young women.”