Perspectives on Sebelius Overrule of FDA on Plan B

(screenshot from Huffington Post article mentioned below)

Women’s health advocates were quick to cry foul Wednesday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the opinion of the Food and Drug Administration that the popular “morning after” emergency contraceptive “Plan B One Step” should be allowed to be sold without a prescription — and without age restrictions.

That’s from an NPR story on the response of women’s groups to the ruling by HHS head Sebelius. Many others have weighed in via various forums since the ruling. What gives? Is the decision politically motivated? Or was it because Sebelius actually believed in the rightness of her objection enough that she should overrule the FDA, something that’s apparently not at all usual practice?

Here are some quotes from an MSNBC Vitals blog article about the issue, from a major ethicist and from a leader in pediatric care:

“In facing a tough call, HHS has put politics over science when it comes to sex,” said Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and a frequent contributor to

Dr. Robert Block, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, called the decision “medically inexplicable,” saying that it defies strong data that shows emergency contraception is safe and effective for girls and women of all ages.

President Obama has come out in support of the decision by Sebelius, as described on The Maddow Blog:

“I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some  common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter  medicine,” Obama said during an impromptu news conference at the White  House.

He said Sebelius decided 10- and 11-year-olds should not be  able to buy the drug “alongside bubble gum or batteries” because it  could have an adverse effect if not used properly. He said “most  parents” probably feel the same way.

And, to take it down to the level of who’s going to be really affected by this, here’s an excerpt from a Huffington Post article on the topic (the source of the Twitter post at the top of this blog post). The author describes telling a personal story about the matter via Twitter feed:

What a shame.  Going through my twitter feed earlier today (R.I.P. Google Reader!), I came across this oral history of Plan B at GOOD.  It reminded me of a story of my own from a few years ago.  I was with my family, on our annual beach vacation in South Carolina, and ended up buying Plan B for a terrified teenage couple.  I told the story on twitter…

We’ve heard from nurses who are upset and worried by the decision. But what’s your take? Will we be seeing more teenage pregnancies as a result? What other effects are health care providers likely to see?—JM, senior editor/blog editor

2016-11-21T13:11:12+00:00 December 8th, 2011|Nursing|3 Comments

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About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Michelle December 8, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Moving aside the cultural and social aspects of Plan B contraception being available over the counter; I grow more disappointed everday as women’s health and their personal reproductive choices are politicized.

  2. Peggy December 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Once again the USA fails miserably to support its citizens around a healthcare related issue. Would this have happened if we weren’t in the midst of a heated election cycle? I think not…

  3. Barbara Glickstein December 8, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Another parent, who happens to be our President, who wants to hold on to this myth that 12 yos aren’t sexually active and capable of reading a label. I am not a proponent of sexual intercourse starting at 12 but as a public health nurse and feminist I know they are sexually active, we are failing when it comes to educating them about sexuality, sex, gender equality and healthy relationships. Based on what evidence exists, the FDA approved the use of PLAN B for all females of reproductive age. This is an example of politics trumping science and good policy.

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