FDA Hears Testimony on Non-Prescription Sales of Morning After Pill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 16, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

FDA Hears Testimony on Non-Prescription Sales of Morning After Pill

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
December 16, 2003

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life advocates are opposing a possible change the Food and Drug Administration is considering that would allow the so-called morning after pill to be sold over the counter rather than only by a prescription.

Some at Tuesday’s meeting of an FDA advisory panel hailed the idea while pro-life advocates said the drugs, which technically can work as an abortion agent, would put women’s lives at risk.

The makers of "Plan B," and abortion advocates, say it is an emergency contraception that be taken within 72 hours of having sex to stop pregnancy. However, pro-life groups say it works to cause a very-early abortion of an unborn child that has been conceived and doesn’t work as a true contraception the way its supporters claim.

Supporters say the drug doesn’t produce abortions and is safe.

Plan B works only by preventing ovulation and "is not an abortion pill," said Dr. Carole Ben-Maimon, president and chief operating officer of Barr Research.

However, opponents said that making the morning-after pill available over the counter would cause young people having sex to forgo use of contraceptives or discontinue practicing abstinence thinking the pills make sex safe.

"Over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill will lead to increased promiscuity and its attendant physical and psychological damage," Robert Carroll, a retired physician from Pittsburgh, told the panel, according to a Reuters report.

Dr. John Bruchalski, speaking for the Catholic Medical Association, agreed. "The use of Plan B by teens will be disastrous," he said.

The drug involves the use of two tablets, one taken 12 hours after the other. The drugs contain a much higher dosage of progestin, the hormones used in birth control. The drugs cost $25-30, though a price hasn’t been set for over the counter sales.

The FDA has the final decision on the sale of the drugs, though it often relies on the advice of its advisory panels.

Whether the FDA approves the drug for over the counter sales may be irrelevant. At least one Internet web site sells Plan B online. Women purchasing the drug complete an online consultation that doctors review. If approved to buy the drugs, they are shipped in discreet packaging.

Pro-life groups oppose Plan B because, like another "morning-after" pill called Preven, it can prevent the implantation of an unborn child into the uterus following fertilization, forcing the body to artificially reject the pregnancy and killing the newly-conceived unborn child.

Makers of the drug say it has no effect on the unborn child if the baby has already implanted.

A statement by the nation’s Catholic bishops said "the FDA has no mandate to promote and facilitate ways of pregnancy that may cause the death of developing human life already conceived."

The National Right to Life Committee has also long opposed any agent that works as an abortifacient.

"Once fertilization, i.e., the uniting of sperm and egg, has occurred, a new life has begun and NRLC is opposed to the destruction of that new human life," the pro-life group said in a statement.

The Family Research Council agreed saying, "In the past, such as with the swift and politically-motivated approval of the abortion drug RU-486, the FDA has paid more attention to Planned Parenthood than to the real needs of American women and girls. We certainly hope they will now reverse course and keep the morning-after pill off the pharmacy counter."

Forty-four members of Congress wrote to the FDA last week saying the drug should not be available over the counter.

Five states, including Washington, California, Alaska, Hawaii and New Mexico, already allow women to buy the drugs directly from pharmacists, though they are not on the shelves of stores.

You can ontact the FDA to voice your opinion on making Plan B an over-the-counter drug. The phone number is 888-463-6332.