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U.S. Opinions: Washington

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Plan B’s flawed restrictions

From an editorial published in Friday’s Washington Post:

When U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month that the government had to allow unrestricted, over-the-counter access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B, it seemed as though the Obama administration had stumbled its way out of a political quandary. Scientists say that the drug is safe for over-the-counter sale; in fact, the judge noted, it would be among the safest of over-the-counter drugs. But many parents – President Obama included, by his own account – are queasy about children being allowed to buy emergency contraceptives without oversight. The court forced the government to act on evidence, not queasiness.

Or maybe not. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the latest version of Plan B will still be subject to age restrictions. Girls younger than 15 will have to get a prescription to buy a one-pill dose of the drug. This is contrary to the spirit of Judge Korman’s decision, even if the FDA can argue that it follows the letter of the law, since his ruling applies only to an earlier, two-dose version of the drug. On Wednesday, the Justice Department gave notice that it would appeal the judge’s decision.

We don’t mean to belittle Mr. Obama’s queasiness or the concerns of other parents. If Congress and the president want to consider whether the sale of emergency contraceptives to young teenagers has unique moral implications that demand special government restrictions, they should have that debate.

Some have suggested, though without evidence, that the availability of contraception used after sexual intercourse might encourage girls to have unprotected sex or might subject them to pressure to do so. We think the greater danger lies in discouraging desperate teens from using this safe contraception. Balancing those dangers is Congress’ job – not the FDA’s

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