Archive for Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sebelius under fire from allies for Plan B decision

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, seen here in a file photo from June 2011, declined to make emergency contraception more easily available, a move that stunned groups which traditionally have supported her.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, seen here in a file photo from June 2011, declined to make emergency contraception more easily available, a move that stunned groups which traditionally have supported her.

December 11, 2011


Leaders of groups that push for reproductive health rights for women were stunned last week when U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to make emergency contraception more easily available.

Groups frequently allied with Sebelius criticized the decision by the former Kansas governor to keep Plan B One-Step behind the counter at pharmacies and require that girls under 17 continue to need a prescription for the contraceptive.

Sebelius’ decision overruled a recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration that Plan B was “safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of childbearing potential.” Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, Plan B can prevent pregnancy by restricting ovulation or blocking the implantation of a fertilized egg.

But Sebelius said she was concerned that the FDA recommendation would have allowed girls as young as 11 to buy the contraceptive. She concluded “that the data provided as part of the actual use study and the label comprehension study are not sufficient to support making Plan B One-Step available to all girls 16 and younger, without talking to a health care professional.”

When asked, President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue, saying he supported Sebelius’ decision.

“I will say this, as the father of two daughters: I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine. And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going into a drugstore, should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect,” Obama said.

The Guttmacher Institute, whose stated mission is to advance sexual and reproductive health rights, said Sebelius’ example of an 11-year-old girl was specious.

Fewer than 1 percent of 11-year-old girls have had sexual intercourse, but nearly half of girls have had sex by their 17th birthday, the group said. And the Institute noted that if Sebelius is concerned about young girls misunderstanding the labels, there are many over-the-counter medicines that young people can buy that can have fatal side effects.

“Emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is used, so it is critical that women of all ages are able to get it quickly and easily, without having to jump through unnecessary hoops,” said Sharon Camp, president and chief executive officer of the Guttmacher Institute.

“Secretary Sebelius’ decision to ignore the scientific evidence and keep Plan B One-Step off the shelves of local grocery stores and pharmacies is a huge disappointment,” she said.

And in Kansas, the abortion rights group Trust Women also voiced its displeasure with Sebelius’ decision.

“For a Health and Human Services secretary to overturn a carefully thought out decision by the FDA is entirely unprecedented,” said Julie Burkhart, founder and director of Trust Women. “It’s highly unusual, and in this case, ill-advised. The FDA, through thorough examination, made sure the drug was safe to be issued to young women. It may be safer than aspirin, which we distribute in schools. This decision seems to have been a political one. As a Kansan and longtime supporter of Sebelius, I can’t help but be disappointed in her judgment.”


Maddy Griffin 6 years, 3 months ago

.."safer than aspirin, which we distribute in school." Not without my permission you don't. My 8-year-old grandson can't even carry his own rescue inhaler on him. It is kept in the nurse's office.Since she's only at their school 2 or 3 days a week, we're hoping she's there when it's needed. Every adult in the house carries an extra in their glove-box in case she is not. I'm very glad that Kathleen decided this.I wouldn't want this available to minors.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 3 months ago

That would be between the minor and her parents, as it should be.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

troll alert (why aren't comments posting this morning?)

jafs 6 years, 3 months ago

How on earth can folks criticize her for being too left with this decision, which is clearly not a left leaning decision?

How do we know that? Because left wing groups are upset with it.


Maddy Griffin 6 years, 3 months ago

Seems like "the right" isn't too happy about it either. Or maybe it's just guilt by association since Obama appointed her.

Rae Hudspeth 6 years, 3 months ago

There are times when a 16 or 17 yr old doesn't want her parents to know she's having sex, let alone experiencing a birth control accident.

This is a horrible decision for young women.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 3 months ago

A pregnancy is a far more dire consequence than simply getting drunk. Here we go with the apples and oranges again.

Katara 6 years, 3 months ago

I am not so sure about that, cait48. Young people die of alcohol poisoning. I consider that a far more dire consequence than pregnancy.

jafs 6 years, 3 months ago

They also drink and drive, killing others in the process.

Katara 6 years, 3 months ago

I understand and agree with the analogy. My point was that both have dire consequences.

verity 6 years, 3 months ago

A lot of people here showing their true colors---they will spew hate on the Democrats no matter what they do.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 3 months ago

"Maybe 16 or 17 yr old GIRLS shouldn't be little sluts..." Judgmental much? My guess is, if you're a guy, you spent your high school years trying to get into some girl's pants. If you're a girl, you spent your high school years doing everything you could to keep people from finding out you were "doing it". Either way, I'm glad you weren't my parent.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately, not all children are part of families once portrayed on tv like "leave it to beaver" or "father knows best." some kids have parents who at best are just irresponsible...

My only point is that these problems are complex and the solutions that are needed are not easy.

Clearly, the best option is for kids to not have sex but no matter how much we adults yell, pray, preach or whatever, some kids will have sex. What options do we provide those kids with?

Catalano 6 years, 3 months ago

Oh dear, Bozo. I'm going to have to call you on this one. (This is a first.)

roadwarrior 6 years, 3 months ago

I have concerns about girls younger than 16 having access to a drug that could easily be misused out of fear and a lack of adequate knowledge about ovulation. Having said that, we have age restrictions on lots of things. I'm surprised that wasn't considered as a solution to her main concern.

Katara 6 years, 3 months ago

Exactly. It is not uncommon for girls younger than 16 to have irregular cycles as their bodies are already trying to adjust to their hormones.

Katara 6 years, 3 months ago

It is not the same dosage as taking 1 birth control pill. And you will be exposed to the same potential side effects as the Pill.

On top of that, there are medications (such as antibiotics) that interfere with the effectiveness.

Additionally, there are side effects associated with it just as with the Pill (and any other type of hormone). You have increased risk of strokes and blood clots.

Don't you think that a health care provider should be discussing this with a minor (whether or not the parents are aware)?

Katara 6 years, 3 months ago

Depending on which Plan B is sold, it can be 1 or 2 pills. There is Plan B One Step which is 1 pill & Plan B which is 2 pills (each 1/2 the dosage of Plan B One Step). Both are OTC for women over 17.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 3 months ago

Yeah. That's it, 'copter. Real concern for women and their bodies had nothing at all to do with it. Nothing at all.

verity 6 years, 3 months ago

The extreme right is going to hate Obama no matter what he or his administration does and I think he's smart enough to know that. This has p!$$*d off a lot of people on the left who are iffy about him anyway because he's not liberal enough for them. So I would have to conclude from looking at these factors, that it was not a political move meant to placate anybody.

Catalano 6 years, 3 months ago

And here's why:

I think back to when my step-daughters were 11 or 12 or even 13. I (and I bet their mother, and certainly their father) would not want them to be able to just run out and pick this up at the drugstore. think an 11 year old is going to just take this and start being responsible the next time? I don't. "Oh, I can just go grab that pill off the pharmacy shelf...yeah, let's do it again." Instead of something like "Hey, why don't YOU put a freaking condom on you big jerk!"

OMG, I could just go on and on, but I'm tired and cranky. I think I would be okay if the age was 15 and above. But, Jeebus, NOT 11 freaking years old. NO WAY!

Katara 6 years, 3 months ago

This is a good decision.

Do people not realize that one must see a health professional to obtain the Pill? There are reasons for that even though the Pill is safe for most women.

Katara 6 years, 3 months ago

Do you realize that the Pill is a prescription drug and that you must see a health care provider to get it?

The Pill is not an OTC medication. Plan B is a higher dosage of that medication.

deec 6 years, 3 months ago

Vasectomies are cheaper and simpler surgeries.

Catalano 6 years, 3 months ago

Like. (We totally need a Like button on this pityful [sic] site.)

Kirk Larson 6 years, 3 months ago

This was clearly a political decision (no sense throwing red meat to republican rubes). I have mixed feelings about the decision itself. I think that, at the very least, condoms should be available to sexually active kids, but when they are not used or they fail, Plan B should be available. Problem is, some girls might be scared or unable to get the pill (don't want parents finding out) and may think they can use OTC Plan B as a regular birth control, which it is not designed for.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 3 months ago

Not unless they have an unlimited income, Cappy. 60 bucks per pill is a lot of cash.

verity 6 years, 3 months ago

Ha, I knew someone was going to say that. Some on this board are so predictable.

Not sure if I can be considered extreme left, although I'm sure some people here would consider me so. I didn't like many things that George W. Bush did, but when he did something I thought was good, I gave him credit for it---for instance his fight against AIDS in Africa.

I would think that this is something the right end of the political spectrum would commend Sebelius and Obama for.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 3 months ago

I think the left was duped by Bush and Chaney when they supported the war in Iraq, but they supported Them on it. I believe the left also supported Bush when he proposed drug coverage thru Medicare. These are but two examples. The right are obstructionists now they don't control the white house. It is akin to wanting to take the football home when the calls don't go your way.

kansanbygrace 6 years, 3 months ago

The concept of having children self-medicating with hormones during their own hormonal circus (adolescence) would never be considered if it weren't for the politics of sex and abortion. Nobody would allow steroids for eleven or twelve-year-old boys to be put between the bandaids and the Cherry Mash, for them to "choose" for themselves, without input and management by their parents or their doctors.
Nope, it's all politics and pregnancy, both of which topics are fraught with hyperbole and hysteria. The Secretary is the most sane voice in the room.

matahari 6 years, 3 months ago

I'd be interested in a comparative study that would include dangers/complications of the morning after pill versus abortion, which is monitored by physicians. And also some comparative studies in costs.

KS 6 years, 3 months ago

Oh, where is Phill Kline when we need him? :) "If" girls as young as 11 are getting pregnant, somebody has broken the law. Last time I checked, it takes two for that to happen.

jaywalker 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm not getting why so many are up in arms over this. First, bemoaning the fact that 11, 12, and 13 year old girls can't stroll in and pick some Plan B off a shelf is silly any way you slice it. Forget the fact there's little chance an 11 year old is shopping by themselves anywhere, I've heard this stuff is over fifty bucks a pop. Not only will girls that young lack such cash, there's little chance something that expensive is sitting on a shelf for shoplifters anyways. I expect it could be treated like ephedrine where you can get it OTC but have to go through a TSA style interrogation first. But much like Perry's criticized vaccination, it seems that the primary concern is for the health of the young individual. There's no way to justify allowing girls younger than 16 accessibility to something this powerful and physiology-altering. I'm just a guy, but aren't girls cycles fairly inconsistent at early ages? It can't be safe for them to take something like this without a doctor's consultation.
I haven't read many of the comments here, but I did see a couple calling this a "political decision." How so? Sebelius and the President made a move that would be roundly criticized by their own party. Doesn't sound like a wise "political decision" to me. No, just sounds like a logical choice considering the ages and undeveloped bodies this choice hampers. Seems prudent to me.

jaywalker 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm sorry, but "if" a child that young "can manage to get" pregnant that does NOT mean "she can surely shop by herself", nor that she has $50. How the hell does one follow to the other two? Willing to bet most 11 year olds who get pregnant weren't looking to have sex in the first place, and just because someone has impregnated a child that young that doesn't mean she's automatically incredibly mobile and affluent.

verity 6 years, 3 months ago

Antonym: a word of opposite meaning

Read her/him with that in mind.

jaywalker 6 years, 3 months ago

You sure, verity? What's the point of replying to my post then if it's supposed to be read contrarily?

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