Senate May Vote on FDA Pick Amid Abortion, Morning After Pill Debate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate May Vote on FDA Pick Amid Abortion, Morning After Pill Debate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 6
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The Senate may vote on the nomination of Andrew von Eschenbach to become the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration despite a debate about the agency’s handling of the dangerous RU 486 and morning after pill drugs. A vote will only come if the chamber first approves a procedural motion needing 60 votes.

Von Eschenbach has served as acting FDA commissioner since September 2005, but he has come under fire from pro-life advocates for the agency’s lackluster investigations into why the abortion drug has killed seven women and injured nearly 1,000 more.

Abortion advocates have also complained about his performance saying he wrongly delayed a decision on selling the morning after pills over the counter, without a prescription.

A Senate committee approved his nomination in September but three pro-life lawmakers have held it up since then, including pro-life Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina because of he wants the drug, which kills unborn children and injures women, pulled from the market.

According to a Reuters report, a DeMint spokesman said the senator still had objections to allowing a vote on von Eschebach’s nomination. The other senators are blocking a vote as well, meaning senators will need 60 votes to cut off debate and proceed to a confirmation vote.

In September, DeMint’s press secretary Wesley Denton said “Senator DeMint believes that a qualified FDA nominee would publicly discourage RU-486’s use and take immediate steps to remove it from the market."

“We’ve reached a breaking point here, and the senator’s not going to budge until they wake up over at FDA," he added.

DeMint’s hold came after abortion advocates lifted theirs.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat, and Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington both placed holds on von Eschebanch’s nomination because of the FDA’s delay in approving non-prescription sales of the Plan B drug. With a new deal the agency reached with Barr Laboratories in August to sell the drug to anyone over the age of 18, the two reversed their positions.

Some 950 women in the U.S. alone have been injured by the abortion drug and many of them required emergency hospitalization to complete failed abortions, for blood transfusions or to treat other problems.

Dr. James McGregor, an obstetrics professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, told an FDA panel earlier this year that the problems are sufficient to warrant limiting the use of the abortion drug or pulling it from the market entirely.

"I recommend we reduce or eliminate mifepristone, or at least consider that," McGregor said.