Left Outraged, Pro-Lifers Surprised that Sec. Sebelius Makes Right Call on Not Giving Plan B to MinorsBy
A funny thing happened on the way to the pharmacy: Kathleen Sebelius did the right thing. It has pro-lifers scratching their heads and pro-aborts apoplectic.
The New York Times summarizes what happened:
For the first time ever, the Health and Human Services secretary publicly overruled the Food and Drug Administration, refusing Wednesday to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter, including to young teenagers. The decision avoided what could have been a bruising political battle over parental control and contraception during a presidential election season.
The contraceptive pill, called Plan B One-Step, has been available without a prescription to women 17 and older, but those 16 and younger have needed a prescription — and they still will because of the decision by the health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. If taken soon after unprotected sex, the pill halves the chances of a pregnancy.
This is a surprising move especially because no health secretary has ever ignored the suggestion of the FDA on these questions. The Sebelius decision is a pyrrhic victory in one sense, however, because nothing is “improved” by this decision — she simply chose not to make it worse. Greg Pfundstein has a good post explaining all the many good reasons why this proposal to liberalize access to Plan B over the counter, without a prescription, to minors as young as 11 and 12 was always the wrong move.
The Hill has a good summary of the outcry by the far-left over this decision. President Obama defended the decision today to the press. (He claimed he was no part of the decision process even though he invited Sec. Sebelius to fly with him on Air Force One recently. Maybe they discussed the weather.)
One possible explanation for the reversal is that all the recent pressure exerted against Sebelius has had an impact, and as a result her department was desperate to make a single decision that would not deeply anger pro-lifers and people of faith.
Mona Charen at NRO Online makes the excellent point that the reasons Sebelius used to justify her decision could equally be used to overturn other awful decisions her department has made in the past:
“…none of those concerns [about the harmful effects of expanding access to contraception and Plan B] seem to rank very high with Secretary Sebelius or this administration. The secretary’s explanation made a vague reference to “label comprehension studies” and Sebelius’s skepticism that very young girls could understand what they were taking. If that’s the reasoning, then Sebelius ought to be open to the conservative critique about condom distribution programs in schools and widespread encouragement of contraception for the young. There is, indeed, lots of evidence that young people are poor decision makers about these matters. There’s also good research to show that a shockingly high percentage of girls are losing their virginity (sometimes unwillingly) to much older boys and men.
Perhaps Secretary Sebelius will now be open to learning more.
Call me cynical, but I doubt it.
That said, I try to make a habit out of not criticizing good decisions, even when they are made by untrustworthy people for bad motives. So good job, Sebelius, you got one right. Now can we go for two?
UPDATE: An MSNBC Political Blog explains the political calculus probably behind the decision:
While the Obama administration is taking some hits from the left in its decision NOT to allow girls 16 and younger to obtain the Plan B morning-after pill off the shelves, it was a smart move politically. (Why subject yourself to a possible GOP attack that your administration is allowing 14-year-old girls to easily acquire morning-after pills? And that line of attack, in turn, would have potentially created problems for the president in places like Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc… places with high concentrations of Catholic Democrats and independents.) When you add this decision to the White House’s punt on Keystone XL, you see that Team Obama is operating under this rule: Don’t create political problems for yourself if you don’t HAVE to, especially over issues that most Americans aren’t paying attention to. Just like in football, sometimes a punt is a smart play – even if it’s not what the fans want to see.