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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2003

The morning after pill

A recommendation by two advisory commissions that the federal Food and Drug Administration approve the “Plan B” morning-after pill for non-prescription, over-the-counter sale is welcome news.

Now it is time for the FDA to accept their findings and do the same.

“Plan B” serves to prevent unwanted pregnancies as much as 72 hours after sexual intercourse has occurred. It has been available in the United States by prescription since 1999. It is approved for use by the governments of 101 countries in the world and is available without prescription in 33 of them. The FDA would be wise and correct to accept the commissions recommendation and authorize sale as soon as possible.

The Bush Administration would be wrong to exercise political influence on the FDA not to implement the commissions recommendation because of pressure from anti-choice groups, companies selling other means of contraception, or other opponents of birth control.

There is no place in the upcoming decision for pursuit of any stated or unstated anti-abortion political agenda. Apart from the “choice” element of the issue, it is a fact that over the years women s health has been damaged - at times severely - by various other means of contraception.

The continuing lack of certainty involving the use of condoms, diaphragms, and other methods is a concern as well.

A great need remains for an efficient male contraceptive, an easily used male “pill.” However, since it is ultimately the woman who will bear an unwanted child, the choice to avoid the pregnancy still should rest primarily with the woman. There should not be the possibility of the man, whether in good will or through deceit, causing the woman to become pregnant without her consent, with her believing incorrectly that he has taken the male “pill.”

The value of the “Plan B” morning-after pill in cases of rape is obvious. There were 95,136 rapes reported in the United States last year - more than 260 a day.

The two FDA commissions, the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs, studied the medication carefully and have recommended it to the FDA.

The next step should come quickly - FDA action to make it readily available to Americans in pharmacies across the country without prescription.

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