To be to the left of President Obama on the issue of abortion seemed an impossible task, until Friday's ruling by Federal Judge Edward Korman. Defying Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, with whom the president sided on the issue, Korman ruled that the FDA may not stand in the way of the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, being sold over-the-counter with no restrictions on age. Prior to his decision, Plan B was only available without prescription to women over the age of 17. While Sebelius had argued that an 11 year old girl may not understand how to use the drug properly, Korman wrote, "These emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over-the-counter. The number of 11-year-olds using these (morning-after) drugs is likely to be minuscule." Additionally, Korman accused Sebelius' prior decision to restrict access to Plan B of being, "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent." Unfortunately, not only does Korman not have a scientific leg to stand on but the potential for abuses of Plan B's newfound availability are widespread.
In 2011, when the FDA began allowing Plan B over-the-counter for women over the age of 17, the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) released a statement calling the move, "a step backward in women’s reproductive healthcare."
Despite assurances that this decision will lead to a reduction in unintended pregnancies and abortions in the United States, actual data demonstrate that even providing women free “emergency contraception” on hand at home has not made a difference in the unintended pregnancy or abortion rates of women. Going to a pharmacy to buy this medication is certainly less convenient than in study conditions. Therefore, it can reasonably be assumed that the results will be the same: no decrease in unintended pregnancy or abortion rates.
Indeed, the United Kingdom has had over-the-counter access for “emergency contraception” since 2001 and UK abortion rates have risen to their highest levels ever. On the other hand, the potential risks to women’s health are considerable...
Women using Plan B who do conceive have at least 3 times the risk of potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. They will be taking the drug without physician follow-up. How will they know when their life may be in jeopardy from a tubal pregnancy without physician involvement? They won’t as bleeding and abdominal pain are symptoms of both a normal menstrual period and of a rupturing ectopic pregnancy.
Safety data of this medication in the pediatric and young teenage population is scarce, yet women younger than age 18 will surely obtain this drug from those over age 18, as there is no mechanism to monitor or control such activity. Male sexual predators can easily use this medication to cover their abusive and unlawful actions. Likewise, the potential exists for increased pressure on young women to become sexually active, since they may be led to believe that preventing pregnancy is as simple as taking a pill after intercourse. For many, such sexual exploitation will not be in their best health interest.
AAPLOG continued to explain why the claim by the FDA and Plan B that the drug is not an abortifacient is false:
The FDA labeling states that the medication will not abort an implanted pregnancy, but allows that it may stop implantation of a fertilized egg (an embryo). We object to this deceptive doublespeak. Terminating a human embryo is abortion, whether before or after its implantation into the uterus. Adequate informed consent dictates that the woman using this medication be plainly informed of this abortifacient potential.
The average cost of Plan B is $45. The average cost of an abortion, as of 2009, is $470, the cost rising with the gestational age of the baby. Unsurprisingly, according to a National Center for Health Statistics study published earlier this year, women using emergency contraception has more than doubled in recent years. Current statistics estimate that nearly half of women in the US will have an unintended pregnancy and 1 in 4 will choose abortion. Providing the false sense of security that is inherent with drugs like Plan B will add to the abortion epidemic plaguing our country.
What's more, allowing a woman of any age to purchase such a drug creates the dangerous potential for more abuses to go unreported. It's no secret that Planned Parenthood already helps to cover-up child sex trafficking. Why bother with taking a victim to Planned Parenthood when a potential solution can be found, cheaper, at the local pharmacy? Sex trafficking victims may be less likely to be found; as it stands now, only 1 - 2% of them are rescued.
The notion that Judge Korman may have been trying to prevent Sebelius from making a politically motivated move was perhaps of noble intent. However, restricting Plan B may be the only healthcare related item the administration got right.