A Young Physician’s Response to President Obama’s Plan B Failure: Where Is the Scientific Integrity?

NOTE: This is a guest post from Megan Evans, MD, MPH. Megan is the President of Medical Students for Choice.

Like most of the pro-choice community, I was shocked by Secretary Sebelius of The Department of Health and Human Services overruling the FDA’s decision to make Plan B over-the-counter and available for all ages. This was unexpected, unprecedented, and extremely unfortunate.

Experts, who we count on for guidance and sound evidence based medicine, have repeatedly shown Plan B to be not only extremely effective, but incredibly safe. Although the experts in the FDA agreed with the well researched and presented data on Plan B, Secretary Sebelius and President Obama chose to ignore their expertise and base their decision on politics, not science.

Not only is this infuriating, but hypocritical. A certain document found on WhiteHouse.gov by The Obama Administration dated March 9, 2009 expresses quite the different sentiment. Interestingly, this release from The White House Press Secretary is entitled “Scientific Integrity” and the first line states “[s]cience and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health…”

I suppose I missed the footnote that implied exceptions for family planning.

As I read the press releases on Secretary Sebelius’ decision and President Obama’s unwavering support of her overruling, I could not help but pick apart their few but telling remarks:

President Obama stated that 10 to 11 year-olds would be able to buy Plan B next to batteries and bubble gum, potentially putting these young girls at risk for adverse events if they did not use Plan B correctly. Interestingly, Tylenol is over-the-counter and far more dangerous with far more potential for adverse outcomes. Oh, and pregnancy in a 10 to 11 year-olds also has FAR more adverse outcomes than a small, but effective dose of Plan B.

Speaking of 10 to 11-year-olds, less than 1% of this age group is sexually active. On the other hand, more than half of adolescent girls have had intercourse by their 17th birthday. So yes, by continuing to repeat this age group through the media, it certainly helps to sensationalize barely pubertal girls becoming sexually active, but it is an unreasonable and inappropriate example. Sexually active girls below the age of 17 are still required to have a prescription of Plan B from a physician or medical health professional to take to their local pharmacy, creating an undue burden and precious, wasted time after unprotected sex.

Lastly, how could you do this? When you became our leader, President Obama, we counted on you to stand up for women’s reproductive health, to stop putting unnecessary roadblocks to family planning services in front of all women everywhere, and to be our voice. Instead you have ignored the science behind the drug, you have ignored your vow to scientific integrity and you have ignored your biggest voting base — WOMEN and YOUTH.

As a young physician and an advocate for access to reproductive health, I hold these things to be true:

  1. Women and their partners deserve better
  2. Our leaders should fight to break down barriers to access to family planning, not reinforce them
  3. Advocacy and Activism is key for change and progress

Now more than ever, we need to raise our voices to make sure our leaders hear us! Call The White House. Call HHS. Call your Congresspersons. Write an op-ed. Sign the petition.

Make your voices heard.

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