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Editorial: Plan B decision the right one

The Obama administration's top health official overruled her

The Obama administration's top health official overruled her own drug regulators and stopped the Plan B morning-after pill from moving onto drugstore shelves next to the condoms. The Food and Drug Administration was preparing to remove the age limit yesterday and allow younger teens, who today must get a prescription, to buy it without restriction. That would have made Plan B the nation's first over-the-counter emergency contraceptive, a pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex. The FDA was overruled, deciding that young girls shouldn't be able to buy the pill on their own, especially because some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children. (Dec. 10, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

The Obama administration's decision to block over-the-counter sales of the Plan B morning-after pill to girls age 16 and younger may have had the 2012 election in mind. It may have turned aside clinical studies finding that a dose of the hormone progesterone to prevent a pregnancy was safe.

But it also was the correct choice. Politics often means applying a good dose of common sense.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, on Wednesday reversed a Food and Drug Administration ruling because the manufacturer hadn't studied the drug's specific safety or behavioral impact on young girls, ages 11 and 12.

President Barack Obama denied that he intervened in the decision, which has angered his liberal base. However in support of Sebelius, Obama, whose daughters are ages 13 and 10, said the broader consequences of these policies have to be considered.

Those older than 16 can still purchase the pill outright, but anyone younger needs a prescription. The result, we hope, is that a physician, an adult or even a sibling a few years older might get involved to facilitate the purchase. And that could lead to heightened awareness of sexual abuse, victimization by older men or at least the need to educate about the consequences of intercourse at such a young age.

If the FDA decision had been upheld, however, the message for preteens would have been a bad one -- that risky sexual behavior can be undone by simply taking a pill in the next day or so.

This is a victory for our children; they shouldn't be collateral damage in the unending war between women's advocates and social conservatives over reproduction.