by Steven Ertelt
August 2, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Abortion advocates on a Senate committee sharply questioned Food and Drug Administration nominee Andrew von Eschenbach on the morning after pill. Their questions and comments came just one day after the agency announced it would seek an agreement with the Plan B manufacturer to sell the drug over to the counter to women 18 or older.
Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) praised von Eschenbach’s resume but questioned what they called a "politicized" handling of the morning after pill.
Von Eschenbach told the panel he is committed to "sound science" but many questioned the timing of the Plan B announcement this week.
"We all know what’s going on here," Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said, adding, "It’s the disregard of science for ideological concerns."
Von Eschenbach said that he decided to consider the application based "not on a political ideology but on a medical ideology."
"No one told me what I should or could do. No one told me what decision I must or must not make. [The letter] was my decision," he explained.
They also questioned the FDA’s decision to sell the morning after pill, which may occasionally cause abortions, only to women over the age of 18. Previously, the FDA told Barr Laboratories it would consider a revised application to sell the drug through pharmacies to women over 16.
"Is there new data? New analysis? Or have you just decided you don’t like the conclusion of your predecessor?" asked Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat.
"I believe 18 is appropriate," von Eschenbach said, according to a Washington Post report. "It’s a cut point. We have to have some cut point."
He added that the age 18 limit offers a "greater safeguard in protecting and promoting the health" of young women. Von Eschenbach also said that he decided on the age limit in part because tobacco products have the same age restriction.
HELP Committee Chair Mike Enzi said he plans to hold a vote on the nomination after the Senate’s August recess.
"The question is not whether to confirm him. The question is whether to confirm him before Plan B is approved," Enzi said, according to the Baltimore Sun. "So it’s not a question of qualifications."
President Bush may consider using a recess appointment later this month to name him commissioner and Hillary Clinton asked von Eschenbach if he would accept a recess appointment.
"I want to look forward to the Senate’s confirmation of me as your choice to be commissioner of the FDA," he replied.