Judge Orders the HHS to Relent on Emergency Contraception

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, April 5, 2013 13:14 EDT
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There’s very little doubt, I suspect, in the minds of anyone that Kathleen Sebelius’s choice, which was vigorously defended by President Obama (and suspected to come from him), to overrule the FDA’s decision to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age restrictions, was pure politics. Anti-choicers have been characterizing the medication, which works by suppressing ovulation and does not affect fertilized eggs, as “abortion” for years. (Their reasons for this are pure, unadulterated sexism.) I and most observers have zero doubt that the Obama administration was reacting to the fear that anti-choicers would claim that Obama was providing abortions to 10-year-olds or some other such nonsense. For all I know, they also figured that by the time this worked its way through the courts, Obama would be safely re-elected, and they wouldn’t have to worry about this anymore.

If that was the plan, well, it worked. Not only has a federal judge ordered the HHS  decision revoked and Plan B to be sold OTC with no restrictions in the next 30 days, but he did so by chastising Sebelius for playing politics around decisions that should be a matter of medical evidence and nothing else.

Describing the restriction as “a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence” Judge Edward Korman of the District Court of Eastern New York directed the Food and Drug Administration to lift it within 30 days.

“The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step…were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” Judge Korman wrote, directing the FDA to “Make levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives available without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within thirty days.”

Like I said, I imagine the HHS will roll over on this one without a fight. I’m skeptical that Sebelius really feels that there’s some danger in letting people get this drug without providing ID. It’s particularly galling how irrational all this is. The unprotected sex has already happened when a woman takes EC; the only value in restricting access to it is to punish her with unwanted pregnancy. Even if you buy, which I certainly do not, the idea that the government should prioritize preventing teen sex over teen pregnancy, this is a dumb fuck way to go about it.

My prediction is the HHS complies without fighting this. There’s no impending election and since it’s a court decision, they can save face. It’s time to do what’s right and move on.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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