Idaho women may have a new choice for contraception by early this fall. The Food and Drug Administration announced last Friday that it will decide by September 1 whether to allow nationwide over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B, or the "morning-after" pill.
It has been over two years since Barr Pharmaceuticals applied for over-the-counter status, and Democrats including Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have accused the Bush administration of improperly delaying the judgment and substituting ideology for scientific evidence. In 2003, an FDA advisory panel recommended overwhelmingly that Barr's application be approved, but the agency rejected the bid. When Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced the agency would make another decision, both senators declared victory and said they would llow a vote on the nomination of Dr. Lester Crawford for FDA commissioner. Both had previously blocked the vote.
Planned Parenthood of Idaho dispenses an average of over 100 emergency contraception prescriptions per week, according to President and CEO Rebecca Poedy. The company is the leading provider of such prescriptions nationwide, and estimates that more widespread availability of the drug could prevent 1.7 million unintended pregnancies and 800,000 abortions each year.Conservative critics of Plan B have said that easier access to emergency contraceptives might increase promiscuity among young girls. But a study released earlier this month in the UK, where the drug has been available without prescription since 2001, showed that making "morning-after" drugs widely available had not changed rates of unprotected sex.