Obama backs restrictions on morning-after pill

By David Edwards
Thursday, December 8, 2011 15:24 EDT
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President Barack Obama speaks about Plan B
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President Barack Obama on Thursday said he supported Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to keep the restrictions that prevent teens from being able to buy emergency contraception without a prescription.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Margaret Hamburg had told reporters that she backed lifting the age restrictions for teens over the age of 12, but was overruled by Sebelius Wednesday.

“With respect to Plan B, I did not get involved in the process,” Obama said at a press conference Thursday.

“As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine. And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drug store should be able to — alongside bubblegum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.”

Plan B One-Step, also known as the morning-after pill, typically costs about $50 for a single pack.

By way of comparison, Tylenol — among many analgesics, antihistamines, decongestants and cough suppresants — is available over the counter to children of all ages, despite its potential to be misused in ways that could harm children. Tylenol typically costs only a few dollars per bottle.

“[Plan B] is safer than Tylenol, and yet we’re going to put extra barriers to keep that young teen from preventing an unintended pregnancy when she’s already in that circumstance,” Dr. Susan Wood told The Daily Beast. Wood resigned from the Bush-era FDA in 2005 over claims that the Bush Administration pushed the agency to limit over-the-counter access to the drug.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration advised drug makers to lower the maximum single dose of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, because overdoses can cause liver damage and even death.

It’s not the first time that Obama has centered reproductive health policies around what he would want for his daughters. At a town hall in 2007, he told a questioner this about abortion policy:

I’m all for education for our young people, encouraging abstinence until marriage, but I also believe that young people do things regardless of what their parents tell them to do and I don’t want my daughters ending up in really difficult situations because I didn’t communicate to them, how to protect themselves if they make a mistake. I think we’ve got to have that kind of comprehensive view that says family planning and education for our young people and so forth – to prevent teen pregnancies, to prevent the kinds of situations that lead to women having to struggle with these difficult decisions and we should be supportive of those efforts.

During his campaign for president in 2008, then-Senator Obama also mentioned his daughters while explaining that young people should be taught about safe sex.

“So when it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include — which should include abstinence education and teaching the children — teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual,” he told CNN’s Mary Snow.

“But it should also include — it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so it doesn’t make sense to not give them information.”

Plan B continues to be available without a prescription for women 17 and older.

Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Dec. 8, 2011.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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