Pro-life groups nationwide are outraged by yesterday’s announcement that the Food and Drug Administration will approve Barr Pharmaceutical’s abortion drug, often called Plan B, for over-the-counter use by women aged 18 and over.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says the decision is “completely unacceptable.”
The announcement, however, was expected. A few weeks ago, when acting FDA director, Andy Von Eschenbach, sent word to the pharmaceutical company that they should resubmit a proposal for the drug’s over-the-counter approval, pro-life groups voiced their concerns and began demanding that President George Bush withdraw his nomination of Eschenbach to be permanent director of the agency.
But, on Monday pro-life Americans were stunned when Bush voiced his support for the director and his plan.
In reaction to yesterday’s official announcement, pro-life groups restated their concerns regarding the drug and its availability without a prescription as well as their dismay at the Bush administration’s approval of the abortion causing pill.
Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information for the USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, points out one of the bishops’ primary concerns. “The FDA describes Plan B as ‘a contraceptive drug’ and equates its side effects to those of ordinary birth control pills,” McQuade said. “While Plan B can prevent fertilization, the manufacturer admits it may also prevent a newly-conceived embryo from implanting and surviving in the womb. This is properly understood as causing an early abortion.”
Furthermore, McQuade said, “despite exaggerated claims to the contrary, Plan B will not realistically reduce abortion rates. Research in Europe and the U.S. has shown that increased access to ‘emergency contraception’ has a negligible effect on the rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.”
In addition to failing to reduce abortion rates, Care Net, a network of 975 pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics across North America, worries that the decision will likely result in an increase of sexually transmitted diseases among teens. Care Net president Kurt Entsminger points to international studies, which indicate that when and where the morning-after pill is available over-the-counter, STD rates increase.
Entsminger also warns that Plan B could serve as another tool in the hand of sexual predators.
Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the 17,000-member Christian Medical Association, agrees with Entsminger’s point.
“How does the FDA plan to prevent Plan B from being purchased by child predators and rapists and used to cover their crimes? How will it prevent an adult from purchasing the drug for a minor?” Stevens challenged.
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women of America says that they can’t and will not. “If the FDA thinks that enacting an age restriction will work, or that the drug company will enforce it when it has already announced it has no intention of enforcing it, then they are living in a dream world. Enforcement requires a penalty for violating the restriction. The FDA has no authority or ability to enforce an age- restriction, and Barr, the Plan B drug maker, has neither the ability nor the willingness.”
McQuade, in the bishops office also says that over-the-counter access of the morning-after pill “will compromise informed consent and follow-up care when necessary” for women.
Plan B consists of a powerful dose of the artificial hormone, Levonorgestrel – 40 times the amount found in comparable prescription-only birth control pills.
"Removing this high dose of hormones from a doctor's oversight removes a vital safety protection from women,” Dr. Stevens added. “Like any drug, this drug involves side effects and risks, and its use needs to be carefully considered by a physician in light of an individual's medical history.”
Some pro-life leaders say the burden of responsibility now shifts to pharmacies to protect women’s health and are urging pharmacists not to stock the drug.
Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, said the approval of Plan B “has created a lasting rift” between President George Bush and the Catholic voter base.
This decision has “turned the agency into a hand-maiden of the abortion industry and powerful pharmaceutical companies,” said Fr. Euteneuer.
It also “demonstrates wholesale politicization of the agency and gives final confirmation that the FDA cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of the American people’s health and safety,” he said.