.- The Obama administrationâs overruling of an FDA proposal to provide the Plan B âmorning-after pillâ to preteen girls won praise from Catholic leaders who said it protected parental responsibility and the health of young adolescent girls.
âOur country must help parents exercise their responsibility to their children,â Catholic Health Association president and CEO Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., said Dec. 9.
âGiving parents control over relatively inconsequential areas such as ear-piercing and then taking it away in such a serious area would not only put their children at risk but undermine parents' ability to parent. This great country is built on the strength of the family and this decision helps to maintain a strong role for parents in critical decisions.â
Sr. Keehan said the CHA is âvery gratefulâ to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling her decision to override the FDAâs approval âintelligent and courageous.â
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, the director of media relations for the U.S. bishopsâ conference, also praised the decision.
âIt is hard to imagine that any parent or teacher who ever has known an 11-year-old could disagree with the HHS decision. Thatâs true regardless of oneâs view on the morality of contraception or oneâs level of concern about the prospect that some of these drugs can serve as abortifacients.â
On Dec. 7 the Food and Drug Administration planned to announce that it would allow the âPlan B One-Stepâ drug, also known as the âmorning after pill,â to be sold over the counter and without parental consent to girls of all ages.
FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg had endorsed the pill, a high dose of the synthetic hormone progesterone, as âsafe and effectiveâ for all women of âchild-bearing potential.â
However, Sebelius overruled the decision, citing the âsignificant cognitive and behavioral differencesâ between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.
Current restrictions on the drug require a prescription for girls under the age of 17. Those meeting the age requirement can obtain the contraceptive over the counter.
Sr. Keehan cited âgrave concernâ about the safety of young girls self-administering the hormone and the lack of âstrong scienceâ demonstrating the safety of the drug.
Sr. Walsh said the FDAâs reasoning seemed not to consider that a medicine designed for adult women can have a âcompletely different effectâ on a child.
âThe Catholic Church has serious concerns about contraceptive use and doesnât think Plan B is good for anybody, no secret there. But you donât have to be a supporter of the churchâs position to know that pushing Plan B to kids is wrong on many levels,â Sr. Walsh said.
Childhood is a time of âimmaturity and making mistakes,â she continued. âOne would think that permitting kids to use their birthday money to buy meds without their parentsâ or guardiansâ knowledge would be beyond the pale.â
She characterized the proposal as a âdreamâ for the Israel-headquartered pharmaceutical company Teva, which produces the drug.
â(T)heir pills, which were not selling well as a prescription drug, would now be right up there on the shelf with meds for childhood illnesses like the common cold.â
Sr. Walsh voiced concerns that young adolescents might be too scared not to read the instructions and could overdose or ignore instructions about side effects.
She also worried that the young can be easily misled into thinking Plan B is a âfree passâ for risky behavior. Teen pregnancy is a âserious social problemâ that cannot be addressed by leading kids to think they can engage in âsafe sex,â she stated.
Sr. Walsh also dismissed criticisms that Sebelius made a political decision to please the Catholic vote.
âThis decision would be more apt to please the parent and grandparent vote. People with pre-adolescent and adolescent children probably hope their offspring are not sexually active. They certainly hope they arenât secretly self-medicating with anything as serious as Plan B,â she said.