The Doctor Is In: It's a new morning at the FDA for the morning-after pill
I can't speak for all scientists, but I think most of us are hopeful that the new administration will usher in a new era in which health policy is dictated by scientific evidence instead of religious and political ideology. An indication of just how much of a switch that would be from the previous administration is found in the recent decision by a federal judge in New York ordering the FDA to allow 17 year olds access to the morning-after pill without a prescription.
Marketed as Plan B, the morning-after pill (actually, it involves taking two pills) is intended as an emergency form of birth control after unprotected sex or if another form such as a condom fails. The FDA approved the drug for over-the-counter sales in 2006, but limited it to women 18 and older. The recent court ruling describes how that decision was just the last in a long line of arbitrary policies and delay tactics regarding the drug shaped by political pressure from President Bush's conservative base -- and frequently made in the face of recommendations by the agency's own advisory panels. Religious conservatives oppose Plan B on the grounds it's an "abortive agent," but by any objective measure, that's a stretch. In most cases, the morning-after pill works by preventing the release of the egg by the ovary or the union of egg and sperm -- i.e., the same way all oral contraceptives works. Only if fertilization has already taken place can the pill also prevent the zygote from attaching to the womb and forming an embryo.