Et Tu, Sebelius? HHS Secretary Blocks Over-the-Counter Plan B

Today, as expected, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg approved a pharmaceutical application to make emergency contraception Plan B available over the counter without an age restriction. Then, flabbergasting reproductive-health advocates, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled that decision, ruling to keep Plan B “behind-the-counter.”

Plan B’s status has been the subject of fierce debate inside and outside the walls of HHS for nigh on a decade. But that debate seemed to be finally over. Countless doctors, scientists and health professionals have confirmed that Plan B does not pose a health risk. Multiple studies have shown that girls are capable of understanding the package label and using the product safely. In 2009 a federal judge even ordered the FDA to reconsider the age restrictions on the drug, calling it “political and ideological,” not scientific.

Kathleen Sebelius has been a friend to women’s health in the past. In August, she announced that birth control constituted preventive care under the Affordable Care Act, thereby requiring insurance plans to cover it at no cost to women. Why the turnabout? Possibly she’s tired of the relentless pressure she faces every day from religious groups and their friends in Congress. Possibly she’s tired of being called “a threat to the health and well-being of our country,” a thug, a Soviet tyrant, a late-term abortion lover, criminally obstructive, gruesomely anti-Catholic and a liar.

Regardless, in the interest of science, reason and sanity, she should have stepped up–or rather stepped out of the way of the FDA finally doing the right thing on EC.

Secretary Sebelius, we thought better of you. This was the most unkindest cut of all.

Take action to help reverse this decision—click here to tell President Obama not to let science and medical standards be trumped by politics.

Photo from Flickr user US Mission Geneva under Creative Commons 2.0.


Holly L. Derr is the Head of Graduate Directing at the University of Memphis and a feminist media critic who uses the analytical tools of theater to reflect upon broader issues of culture, race and gender. Follow her @hld6oddblend.