Bishops' Aide Hails Decision on Morning-After Pill

U.S. Agency Blocks Over-the-Counter Sale of «Plan B,» for Now

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 7, 2004 ( A U.S. bishops’ aide hailed a federal agency’s decision to block over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill.

The Food and Drug Administration ruled Thursday that a pharmaceutical company could not sell Plan B without a prescription because of concerns over young girls’ use of the drug without a doctor’s supervision. The FDA said it would reconsider its decision if the pill’s maker provides more information.

«We are pleased that the voice of reason prevailed,» said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, a spokeswoman for the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. «A drug that can destroy human embryos and increases health risks to women and girls does not belong on the drug store shelf.»

The decision overruled the FDA’s advisory panel’s recommendation last December to sell the levonorgestrel-only pill over the counter.

In a statement released today, the U.S. bishops’ office explained that Plan B is essentially an «overdose» of birth-control pills. It is marketed and advertised as a contraceptive, but in fact can cause early abortions.

«The Plan B distributor may argue that it’s all the same, but preventing human life from beginning is not the same thing as destroying life that has already begun,» said Ruse.

«Women deserve to know the truth about drugs that are marketed to them, and teen-age girls should not be sold potentially dangerous, abortifacient drugs off the shelf,» she said.

Ruse warned that this type of morning-after pill has been associated with a heightened risk of ectopic pregnancy, a potentially fatal condition.

«The common side effects of the morning-after pill — nausea and abdominal pain — are also symptoms of ectopic pregnancy,» Ruse explained. «A switch to over-the-counter Plan B would leave countless women vulnerable to a ‘hidden’ but potentially fatal complication, with no medical supervision.»

«It would be senseless to place a potentially dangerous ‘overdose’ of a prescription drug on the shelf next to the Band-Aids,» she said.

Reuters reported that Barr Pharmaceuticals, the pill’s manufacturer, was encouraged that the FDA indicated it would reconsider its ruling if the company provided certain additional information. The drug company plans to conduct a new study and seek nonprescription sales approval again for girls 16 and older.

«For Barr Laboratories, ‘over-the-counter’ spells profits,» said Ruse. «But putting Plan B on the drugstore shelf — with its serious health risks both for women and girls and for developing embryos — would spell disaster.»

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