WASHINGTON — In a surprise move with election-year implications, the Obama administration’s top health official overruled her own drug regulators and stopped the Plan B morning-after pill from moving onto drugstore shelves next to the condoms.
The decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius means the Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive will remain behind pharmacy counters, as it is sold today — available without a prescription only to those 17 and older who can prove their age.
The Food and Drug Administration was preparing to lift the age limit today and allow younger teens, who currently must get a prescription, to buy it without restriction. That would have made Plan B the nation’s first over-the-counter emergency contraceptive, a pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.
But Sebelius intervened at the 11th hour and overruled FDA, deciding that young girls shouldn’t be able to buy the pill on their own — especially since some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children.
“It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age,” Sebelius said. “I do not believe enough data were presented to support the application to make Plan B One-Step available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age.”