WASHINGTON (December 17, 2003) -— The federal Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs voted yesterday to approve a proposal to make Plan B, a levonorgestrel-only "morning after pill," available without a prescription. The final decision rests with the Food and Drug Administration. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed written comments against the proposal.
"A drug which destroys human embryos and puts women at greater risk of ectopic pregnancy does not belong on the shelves of a drug store," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Director of Planning and Information for the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "American women and children do not deserve this reckless experiment on their lives."
The petition for the switch in status was filed by Women's Capital Corporation, a for-profit drug company which has sold the Plan B distribution rights to Barr Laboratories. "This is about a drug company that wants to sell more drugs to women," said Ruse. "It is being marketed and advertised as a contraceptive, but it works before and after conception. Women deserve to know what is being marketed to them."
Making this drug available without a prescription also poses serious health risks to women, since the drug is associated with an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, a potentially fatal complication.
Proponents of the proposal claim that the drug does not terminate a pregnancy because pregnancy is defined by some as beginning when the embryo implants in the uterine wall. "This is an argument about rhetoric, not reality," said Ruse.
"There is a difference between preventing new human life and destroying life that has already begun," Ruse noted. "This drug company and its allies may argue that this distinction makes no difference, but to many women it is a very meaningful distinction," said Ruse. "Women are being misled about this drug, and putting it on the shelves of a drugstore would only exacerbate the problem."
Minor girls will have free access to Plan B without their parents' knowledge if the proposal is approved. "Parents deserve to know that if this proposal is approved, their teenaged daughters will have free access to a powerful abortion-inducing drug without their knowledge," Ruse said. "This is bad policy and bad medicine."
"The FDA must reject this reckless experiment," she said.
The USCCB comments against the proposal may be read in their entirety at http://www.usccb.org/ogc/ec-fda.shtml.