The One To Take the Lead

Susan F. Wood, PhD, is Research Professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services where her work focuses on the use of scientific knowledge in public policy. She served as Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health and Director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Women’s Health (OWH) from November 2000 through August 2005. She resigned on principle over the continued delay of approval of emergency contraception over-the-counter by FDA.
Although stories about reproductive health and politicization of science have made headlines recently, stories of how these problems are solved are less often told. On August 31, 2005 I resigned my position as Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because the agency was not allowed to make its decisions based on the science or in the best interests of the public’s health. While my resignation was widely covered by the media, it would have been a hollow gesture were there not leaders in Congress who stepped in and demanded more accountability from the FDA. Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Senator Clinton is the leader that made this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.
I have been working to improve health care for women and families in America for nearly 20 years. In 2000, I became the Director of Women’s Health for the FDA. I was rather quietly doing my job when the debate began in 2003 over whether or not emergency contraception should be providedover-the-counter (OTC). As a scientist, I knew the facts showed that this medication, which can be used after a rape or other emergency situations, prevents an unwanted pregnancy. It does not cause an abortion, but can help prevent the need for one. But it only works if used within 72 hours and sooner is even better. Since it is completely safe, and many women find it impossible to get a doctor’s appointment within two to three days, making emergency contraception available to women without a prescription was simply the right thing to do. As an FDA employee, I knew it should have been a routine approval within the agency.
Read the full post at RH Reality Check.

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