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CURRENT ISSUE:  August 7, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 14Oakland, CA

Official denounces easy access to morning-after pill

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A move by the Food and Drug Administration toward making the morning-after pill available over the counter could damage women’s health and put more pressure on pharmacists conscientiously opposed to dispensing the drug, according to the U.S. bishops’ pro-life spokeswoman.
The FDA announced July 31 that it would work with Duramed, a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals that manufactures the drug marketed as Plan B, to develop a “framework for moving emergency contraception medication to over-the-counter status” for women 18 and older.

Deirdre McQuade of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities criticized the FDA’s decision in a July 31 statement.

Plan B uses large doses of birth-control pills to prevent conception up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.

“But even its proponents admit that it works both before and after conception,” McQuade said, adding that many women are “unaware of (the pills’) abortifacient action.”

“Making this powerful, abortifacient drug available without a doctor’s oversight could place women and their newly conceived children at risk,” she said.

“Women for whom the drug is dangerous would not have the benefit of any clinical advice to alert them to the risks.”

McQuade also said FDA approval of over-the-counter sales would “place additional pressure on pharmacists who conscientiously object to dispensing drugs that kill humans at their earliest stages of development.”

Barr Pharmaceuticals originally had sought approval for over-the-counter sales of Plan B to anyone 16 or over. Then-FDA Commissioner Lester M. Crawford announced in August 2005 that the agency would not grant such approval and set a 60-day period for comment. Crawford resigned his post that October.



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