Plan B is the simplest birth control pill there is -- it's a morning after pill for women. One pill, taken the morning after sexual intercourse, prevents pregnancy. Indeed, the pill's simplicity is what's made it a target.
That's why eyebrows were raised when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the odd case that the pill was too complicated to understand by young women and overruled her FDA commissioner, who wanted to make Plan B available over-the-counter to all women based on available scientific evidence.
Specifically, the Secretary said that there was insufficient evidence that younger women can understand the label and use the product appropriately. Again, the labeling and appropriate use of Plan B is exceedingly simple.
Something else must be at play here.
What seems to be at play is presidential politics. Did Sebelius -- a courageous fighter for women's reproductive rights as governor of Kansas -- find a way to delay the Plan B decision until after 2012?
If politics is indeed the reason for Secretary Sebelius' decision, it is a stunning betrayal of President Obama's campaign commitments to reverse the Bush administration's persistent indifference to science and data when it comes to women's health.
Even worse, it raises the prospect that science will be sacrificed to politics in other areas as well, and that other contraception issues will be resolved with similar disregard for women's health.
In fact, we will find out very soon.
The Affordable Care Act guarantees access to important preventive health services without expensive co-pays, including contraception for women.
But, if this administration is afraid of offending anti-women's health forces, thousands of employers will be allowed to refuse to cover contraceptives in their employer-sponsored health plans. Such a move would directly interfere with the individual health needs of millions of women by limiting the type of care they can get.
Last year, my organization issued a report that found, among other things, that access to contraception is a basic medical standard of care -- or protocol that doctors follow -- in a wide range of medical conditions and situations, including heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, lupus, obesity, and cancer. Unintended pregnancy can be dangerous -- even deadly -- for some women with medical conditions such as these.
A woman should not have to choose between her job and her birth control. She must be allowed to make decisions about whether or not to have a child based on her own beliefs, not the beliefs of her employer. Let us hope that Secretary Sebelius sides with science.
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