Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA today on making the morning-after contraception pill available to teens under 17-years-old without a prescription. Of course, the pill itself has been controversial in the years since its introduction, so it's unsurprising that debate over whether to let minors use it would spur conflict. Still, The Associated Press calls it "a surprise move" that Sebelius would overrule "her own experts." The emergency pill, which prevents pregnancies after intercourse, is already available over-the-counter to those 17 and over, and the FDA had decided women younger than 17 were also able to make a decision whether to use it without a doctor's guidance. The statements from the two camps pretty much stick dryly to issues of whether minors are mature enough to decide such matters. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said today "there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential," but noted that Sebelius had disagreed. Sebelius, in a statement, writes:
It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age. If the application were approved, the product would be available, without prescription, for all girls of reproductive age.
NPR notes that today's decision is "likely to prolong a fight that has raged for more than eight years," so stay tuned.