Center Sends Bush Letter, Urging President To Put Position On Contraception To The Test

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The Center for Reproductive Rights today urged the Bush administration to reconcile its recently stated position on contraception with the five-year long refusal by the Food and Drug Administration to make Plan B, known as the "morning-after pill," available without a prescription. After keeping silent on the subject of contraception for more than one year, the administration conveyed in a letter to Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) that it supports " and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception."

Despite this view, the Bush administration has taken no constructive action to compel the FDA to increase access to Plan B – a safe and effective medication proven to reduce the risk of pregnancy by approximately 89 percent when it is taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, according to a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"It is long past time for the FDA to stop the delays, obfuscation and outright refusal to acknowledge what basic science demonstrates," said Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a letter sent yesterday to President Bush. Ms. Northup urged Mr. Bush to put its position on contraception to the test and direct the FDA to immediately approve Plan B for over-the-counter use, "If the administration indeed supports safe and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception, then there is no reason for its failure to support the availability of emergency contraception."

Since 2001, medical, public health, and reproductive rights organizations have been requesting that the FDA to make the "morning-after pill" available without a prescription. Unfortunately, for years, the agency has dragged its feet and deployed procedural roadblocks rather than make a decision on the matter. Last month, the agency finally denied the Center for Reproductive Rights’ citizen’s petition for granting emergency contraception over-the-counter status.

Every 10.5 seconds, an unplanned pregnancy occurs in the United States—an estimated three million such pregnancies every year. And each year, 1.29 million end in abortion. Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive health research organization, have concluded that better access to emergency contraception could prevent half of those pregnancies, including those that now end in abortion. Had the FDA approved emergency contraceptives for over-the-counter use when we submitted the citizen’s petition, many of the 16 million unplanned pregnancies—and subsequent abortions—that occurred in the five years since could have been avoided.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in January 2005 in federal court against the Acting Commissioner of the FDA for failing to approve the emergency contraceptive product Plan B for over-the-counter status. The case is in the discovery phase in the trial court, and was brought on behalf of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and individuals from a grassroots advocacy group, the MAP (Morning-After Pill) Conspiracy.