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Obama Should Admit Defeat On Morning-After Pill

[ Posted Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 – 17:08 PDT ]

President Obama should really stop fighting against the idea of making the morning-after pill available to anyone who needs to buy it. He really should instruct Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder to admit defeat on the issue, and to just move on. Because what he's fighting for, ultimately, is his own political hypocrisy. Politically, this should be reason enough to throw in the towel on this fight.

The reason this is in the news today is that an appellate court just ruled on a motion in the court case over "Plan B" (and all the other brands of the morning-after pill). Previously, a federal judge had ruled that all such pills would be available over-the-counter, with no age limits. The Obama administration is in the process of appealing this ruling, and had filed a motion to continue the current restrictions until the appeal makes its way through the courts. The appellate court ruled against them, which will mean the two-pill version of the morning-after pill (which was referenced in the original lawsuit) will soon be available without any restrictions, across the land. They also ruled that the one-pill version can continue to have restrictions, since it wasn't technically a part of the lawsuit.

This is a rather momentous ruling, because in many cases appellate courts rule in favor of such "stays" (to continue whatever law currently exists) while the appeal is heard. Courts tend to defer to the status quo, knowing that if they change the current legal conditions before the appeal is ruled on, they may undermine any eventual ruling which returns conditions to some previous state. They tend to shy away from "letting the cat out of the bag," to put it another way. This time they refused to do so. They ruled that while the appeal grinds its way forward, the status quo will change.

It's hard to come up with a clearer case (outside of the national security realm, perhaps) of President Obama fighting against the ideals Candidate Obama once stood for. A little over one month before the 2008 election, the Obama campaign released a policy paper on science, while touting the support of 61 Nobel winners for Obama's views on science and politics. This paper stated:

As president, Barack Obama will lead a new era of scientific innovation in America. We need to end the Bush administration's war on science, where ideology trumps scientific inquiry and politics replaces expert opinion.

Two months after he was elected, I wrote about the Plan B legal situation, and urged Obama to follow through on his promise, saying:

The morning after pill ("Plan B") was in the news because a federal judge just told the Food and Drug Administration to start selling it over the counter without a prescription to women under the age of 18. In a scathing opinion from the bench, the judge made it clear he believed that the decision to limit the over-the-counter status of the drug to adult women was made for political reasons, not scientific ones. Which the FDA is just not supposed to do. The FDA, under Bush, didn't even want to change the status of Plan B in the first place, they would have been much happier to leave it as a prescription-only drug. But they were forced to act, so they did what they could to continue limiting access to the drug to only the women they deemed fit to buy it without seeing a doctor first. The judge found this improper, and sent it back to the FDA drawing boards, telling them to get it right the second time around.

One would fully expect the FDA, under Obama, to reverse this decision and give all women access to the drug without a prescription. Politically, Obama doesn't have a whole lot to lose by doing so, and (theoretically) the FDA is supposed to be independent of political influence anyway, so Obama can even take a hands-off approach to the issue, which only further limits any political liability from reversing this decision. But instead of doing so, Obama should get out in front of the issue and declare strongly:

"This is exactly what I was talking about when I said I wanted to 'restore scientific integrity to government' and ensure that scientific data are 'never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda.' I meant what I said, and we will listen to scientific opinion on this issue, and decide accordingly. The only questions worth asking about Plan B are 'Is it safe?' and 'Is it effective?' and those are the only things which will influence our decision."

Obama, needless to say, did not take my advice. Instead -- in an unprecedented move -- HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled a panel of FDA scientists who had recommended no restrictions, which had the result of forcing women under the age of 18 to get a prescription in order to gain access to Plan B.

We now jump forward to 2013. A few months ago, in an absolutely scathing ruling, the federal judge in the case ruled that Sebelius' position was "a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence," calling it "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable." This ruling concluded:

More than twelve years have passed since the Citizen Petition was filed and eight years since this lawsuit commenced. The FDA has engaged in intolerable delays in processing the petition. Indeed, it could accurately be described as an administrative agency filibuster. Moreover, one of the devices the FDA has employed to stall proceedings was to seek public comment on whether or not it needed to engage in rulemaking in order to adopt an age-restricted marketing regime. After eating up eleven months, 47,000 public comments, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, it decided that it did not need rulemaking after all. The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency's misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the FDA to engage in further delay and obstruction.

This is the ruling which will now be allowed to be implemented. In denying the Obama administration the stay it was asking for, the court agreed with this judge's original ruling that Obama, Sebelius, and Holder are doing nothing more than engaging in "further delay and obstruction."

This is a victory for science. It is a victory over the same sort of thing Candidate Obama slammed Bush for doing: "where ideology trumps scientific inquiry and politics replaces expert opinion." Plan B is medically safer than many other over-the-counter drugs sold to anyone of any age. There is simply no scientific or medical reason not to put it on the shelves next to the aspirin, to put this another way. As for the moral argument, how many people who are against Plan B being sold to anyone of any age feel the same way about condoms? To be morally consistent, you'd have to make the same argument -- which, I notice, nobody seems to be making. In fact, even some intelligent Republicans are now making the argument for wider access to Plan B. This extraordinary article, written by a physician/politician chastising his own party's views, begins:

All of the new Oklahoma laws aimed at limiting abortion and contraception are great for the Republican family that lives in a gingerbread house with a two-car garage, two planned kids and a dog. In the real world, they are less than perfect.

As a practicing physician (who never has or will perform an abortion), I deal with the real world. In the real world, 15- and 16-year-olds get pregnant (sadly, 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds do also). In the real world, 62 percent of women ages 20 to 24 who give birth are unmarried. And in the world I work and live in, an unplanned pregnancy can throw up a real roadblock on a woman's path to escaping the shackles of poverty.

It's tough when even some Republicans are making more sense on an issue than the president. This is a losing battle for Obama, because the harder he fights it the more he's fighting against his own stated views on science and politics. Oh, sure, Obama can fight this battle all the way up to the Supreme Court, if he really wants to. But the position he has staked out is exactly what he denounced George W. Bush for doing -- putting politics ahead of science. Obama should really go back and read that position paper he released while he was still Candidate Obama. And then he should gracefully admit defeat, and move on to some more effective use of the Justice Department's time.

 

[Note: I retrieved the language from the Obama campaign position paper from a database with a paywall, so I apologize for not providing a link. And I heartily encourage everyone to read the full article that last link points to (which is nothing short of amazing), written by an Oklahoma state-level Republican who is a doctor who has delivered more than 800 babies.]

-- Chris Weigant

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

27 Comments on “Obama Should Admit Defeat On Morning-After Pill”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    It's tough when even some Republicans are making more sense on an issue than the president.

    That must have been a pretty hard admission to make..

    But it's what I have come to expect from you.

    By and large, you ignore that all-powerful "-x" and call a spade a spade..

    Kudos

    As for the commentary...

    Because what he's fighting for, ultimately, is his own political hypocrisy.

    That said it all.. :D

    Seriously, you know how I feel about it, so there is no reason to re-hash old arguments..

    But, inadvertently, you may have hit on the entire problem with Obama's Presidency.

    He does what HE wants, regardless of laws, public opinion or anything (or anyone) else..

    Now, one could spin that to say, "He does what he thinks is right, regardless" which would be an admirable trait in a leader..

    The problem with that spin is that what Obama THINKS is "right", rarely is...

    I could list dozens of examples but, as I said before, why re-hash old arguments. :D

    Future historians will likely look back on Obama's Presidency and wonder how the American People put up with such a dilettante, such an ego-driven "leader"...

    Michale

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    I would encourage you to read the article that last link points to. It is one of the more extraordinary things I've ever read from a Republican.

    I keep hoping that sooner or later the real conservative arguments like this one will be listened to rather than the culture warriors in the GOP. But I'm not holding my breath...

    -CW

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    I would encourage you to read the article that last link points to. It is one of the more extraordinary things I've ever read from a Republican.

    It IS a good read...

    And I agree whole-heartedly with what the guy is saying.

    *MY* only problem is all that is being bandied about right now bypasses the parents..

    It takes the parents out of the equation, which is the WORST possible options of all the bad options out there..

    Basically what it is saying is that the government trusts immature 12, 13 and 14 years olds to make better decisions than their parents would..

    I am all for making contraceptives, abortions etc etc etc available to ANY ONE who wants them..

    WITH parental consent

    That has been and always will be my only point of contention...

    Michale

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Minors are encouraged to make proper decisions based on consequences that occur with IMPROPER decisions are made..

    What do you think will happen when the government starts eliminating consequences and FORCES parents to accept the elimination of consequences??

    Do we REALLY want to live in a society like that??

    Michale

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Does ANYONE here think that it's a good idea to let 12 13 and 14 yr olds have consequence free sex???

    Anyone at all???

    Michale

  6. [6] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Does ANYONE here think that it's a good idea to let 12 13 and 14 yr olds have consequence free sex?

    Does anyone think it's a good idea to have 12, 13, and 14 year old parents?

    I don't see why anyone would want to punish 12-year old parents and the kids of these parents. And the rest of society who is eventually going to have to deal with these 'effed up kids.

    Why do you want them to have "consequences" for having sex? What does that accomplish?

    -David

  7. [7] 
    akadjian wrote:

    BTW- Consequence free sex sounds like a great idea. I'd recommend it for people of all ages. Really having trouble seeing any downside.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    BTW- Consequence free sex sounds like a great idea. I'd recommend it for people of all ages. Really having trouble seeing any downside.

    Consequence free sex for ADULTS is fine...

    What parent would want their 12-yr old daughter going there...

    No parent that *I* know of...

    But maybe I am out of touch... It's possible..

    Any parents want to chime in and tell me how far off base I am???

    Michale

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    And the rest of society who is eventually going to have to deal with these 'effed up kids.

    yeah, pretty much. there are some pretty convincing correlational statistics on legalized abortion and crime rates.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legalized_abortion_and_crime_effect

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Why is everyone so gung ho to have the government supplant parents???

    Michale

  11. [11] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Why is everyone so gung ho to have the government supplant parents?

    Why do you want the government to mandate parental power?

    I can see many situations in which kids might be forced to become 13- or 14-year old parents for purely religious reasons.

    I see no possible harm caused by allowing access to the morning after pill. And much possible harm by denying it.

    My guess is that you think somehow kids are going to go out and have sex like wild monkeys if they have access to birth control.

    Guess what? If it's going to happen it's going to happen whether or not birth control is available.

    Therefore, why not make birth control available to anyone who wants it?

    The only reason for the government to mandate parental control would be if somehow birth control was harmful.

    -David

    BTW, if you as a parent are unable to educate your kids about sex, you probably don't deserve to be a parent and your kids might very well be capable of making better decisions than you.

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Why do you want the government to mandate parental power?

    Actually, that is the question I am asking you.

    Why are you so gung ho about putting the government between kids and parents??

    I can see many situations in which kids might be forced to become 13- or 14-year old parents for purely religious reasons.

    Really?? Give me a realistic example...

    My guess is that you think somehow kids are going to go out and have sex like wild monkeys if they have access to birth control.

    Using that reasoning, we should give kids access to drugs and alcohol..

    The problem is, ya'all are thinking that kids will make wise and mature decisions with absolutely NOTHING to support that thinking..

    Guess what? If it's going to happen it's going to happen whether or not birth control is available.

    Therefore, why not make birth control available to anyone who wants it?

    Kids are going to drink and do drugs whether or not it's legal.

    Therefore why not make it available to anyone who wants it?

    It's the EXACT same flawed reasoning..

    The only reason for the government to mandate parental control would be if somehow birth control was harmful.

    Why should THAT be the deciding factor??

    And who SHOULD decide what's harmful to kids??

    The government or the parents??

    Well, I know that YOU think it should be government. Because the government has done such a bang-up (no pun intended :D ) in other aspects??

    BTW, if you as a parent are unable to educate your kids about sex, you probably don't deserve to be a parent and your kids might very well be capable of making better decisions than you.

    And there it is..

    :D

    Michale

  13. [13] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Kids are going to drink and do drugs whether or not it's legal.

    There's a simple difference. Drinking and drugs can harm kids.

    What harm will birth control do?

    Nothing.

    Except maybe prevent some unwanted pregnancies.

    Who SHOULD decide what's harmful to kids?

    Is birth control harmful?

    You still haven't answered this question.

    I think experts and we as a community decide. The same way we did with drugs and alcohol.

    Society decided these were harmful and therefore there are laws.

    With birth control, society has decided there is no harm.

    The government or the parents?

    Using your logic, there should be no laws for alcohol or tobacco or drugs.

    Parents should decide everything.

    Why are you for parental control when it comes to birth control yet for big government when it comes to alcohol and drugs?

    Let's be honest, Michale. You love big government. When big government does what you want.

    And there it is ... :)

    -David

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    There's a simple difference. Drinking and drugs can harm kids.

    What harm will birth control do?

    Nothing.

    The harm comes in the mental and emotional maturity of the children in question. It takes away consequences for improper behavior..

    And it puts the government between parents and kids..

    With birth control, society has decided there is no harm.

    No.. Liberals/Democrats/Progressives has decided there is no harm.

    Big difference. Big.. HUGE...

    Why are you for parental control when it comes to birth control yet for big government when it comes to alcohol and drugs?

    Parents can decide to give their kids wine in small increments and there ain't nothing the government can do..

    The difference of opinion here is that you think the federal government knows better than parents..

    I prefer to give the parents the benefit of the doubt..

    Michale

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    But it's interesting, David.

    You appear to agree with CW, that Obama is way off base and utterly hypocritical by his actions..

    Is that accurate?? :D

    Michale

  16. [16] 
    akadjian wrote:

    And it puts the government between parents and kids.

    So do any laws for underage children.

    Yet you support laws for drinking and/or driving. So you are for big government.

    Sometimes.

    When you agree with it.

    It takes away consequences for improper behavior.

    So ... there should be consequences for sex? And underage girls who should not be having sex should be having kids?

    Here's where I think our differences lie.

    I think forcing teenage girls to have kids is a bit extreme.

    Maybe we could chop off their hands like Saudi Arabia instead?

    Or maybe just have them spend a night in jail?

    Why is it important that they have babies when you don't even think they're mature enough to have sex?

    The difference of opinion here is that you think the federal government knows better than parents.

    The difference of opinion is that I think birth control is a benefit.

    And I don't want to punish underage girls for 18 years for what might have been a one night mistake.

    -David

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    So ... there should be consequences for sex?

    When it's illegal, abso-fracking-loutly...

    Do you think that 12, 13 and 14 year old girls are having sex with 12, 13 and 14 year old boys??

    No.. They are having sex with 18, 19 and 20+ year old boys..

    So, you tell me.. Is that legal/moral/right???

    The difference of opinion is that I think birth control is a benefit.

    No, it's the product of a decision by a mature mind..

    Just as drinking and taking drugs is...

    Using your reasoning, we should make it available to minors because (obviously) they are better equipped to make such decisions than their parents are..

    I am STILL waiting for a parent (ANY parent) to tell me I am wrong.....

    "Anyone??? Anyone??? Beuhler???"

    :D

    And I don't want to punish underage girls for 18 years for what might have been a one night mistake.

    Then how will the underage girl LEARN from that mistake???

    She won't.. She'll continue to make that same mistake over and over again...

    "We're not making the same mistakes!"
    "No, no. You are making all NEW mistakes!!"
    -Jurassic Park II

    :D

    Michale

    Michale

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    I probably should be up front and tell you that there is absolutely NO WAY possible on this green earth (or any other green earth) that you will convince me that making available to any minor decisions that require adult maturity, without any parental input whatsoever, is a good idea...

    So, this debate is all probably moot... :D

    Just letting you know up front..

    And I have to also be honest and say that ANY parent of a daughter will likely tell you the same thing...

    Michale

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    What could POSSIBLY go wrong by giving children access to mature and adult actions...

    Duxbury Officials Investigate Discovery Of ‘Sexting’ 8th Grade Students
    http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/06/06/duxbury-officials-investigate-discovery-of-sexting-8th-grade-students/

    :^/

    Michale

  20. [20] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I probably should be up front and tell you that there is absolutely NO WAY possible on this green earth (or any other green earth) that you will convince me that making available to any minor decisions that require adult maturity

    Fair enough.

    Believe it or not I would pretty much say the same thing.

    I would just argue that forcing someone to have a kid at age 12, 13, or 14 requires adult maturity.

    And any parent who would do this to one of their kids is not very responsible. I say this because I do know people who would do this for religious reasons.

    Then how will the underage girl LEARN from that mistake?

    So why not a night in jail?

    If you're really interested in a lesson, why not a more appropriate lesson?

    Maybe a grounding. Why make a 12-year old raise a kid?

    Maybe it's me but it seems a bit unreasonable to me.

    You know what the lesson I'd learn from a parent forcing me to have a baby at age 12 would be ... my parents are unreasonable and perhaps not very good parents.

    -David

  21. [21] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I would just argue that forcing someone to have a kid at age 12, 13, or 14 requires adult maturity.

    Whups. This should read ... having a kid at 12, 13, or 14 requires adult maturity.

    "Forcing someone to" is selfish and immature.

    -David

  22. [22] 
    Michale wrote:

    But, hay... As I have always said, I am a fair guy..

    Find me a parent of a 10+ girl or girls that says giving them access to birth control at ANY age w/o parental involvement is a good idea and I'll be willing to listen and consider their argument..

    But I doubt you are going to find anyone like that..

    :D

    Michale

  23. [23] 
    akadjian wrote:

    BTW, Michale. I do suspect that you are actually quite a good parent and that you would never force your daughter to have a baby at 12 or 13.

    In all likelihood, this scenario would never occur because you would make sure she was responsible enough not to get into that situation.

    So hope you don't take comments personally. And yeah, if I had a daughter, I'd be uncomfortable with her having sex at a young age as well. And I'd do my darnedest to make sure it didn't happen. But I would also educate her about birth control with the knowledge that kids don't always listen to their parents.

    Probably time to bow out of this one on my side as it's starting to get the feel of being too personal.

    Happy National Doughnut Day to you!

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/06/07/189514005/on-national-doughnut-day-free-food-and-feel-good-history

    And hope there's a beer in your near future

    -David

  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:

    Maybe it's me but it seems a bit unreasonable to me.

    You know what the lesson I'd learn from a parent forcing me to have a baby at age 12 would be ... my parents are unreasonable and perhaps not very good parents.

    Most parents that force such a decision end up raising the child anyways...

    My point is that the "They are going to do it anyways" argument is a weak argument, much like the marijuana legalization argument...

    Parenting is NOT about choosing the path of least resistance...

    Michale

  25. [25] 
    Michale wrote:

    Probably time to bow out of this one on my side as it's starting to get the feel of being too personal.

    If it were anyone else, David that MIGHT be a problem.. :D

    And hope there's a beer in your near future

    Are you looking at my shop cams!??? :D

    Michale

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:

    For the record, I don't have ANY problem with making it so minors can have these drugs..

    *MY* only problem is the "without parental involvement" aspect of it..

    It puts the government between kids and parents..

    And I simple do NOT want to live in a society that thinks that THAT is perfectly OK...

    Michale

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    The entire problem with this (and many other issues) is the first 4 words of this commentary...

    Our POTUS is simply incapable of such an action..

    Again, that COULD be a positive attribute in a leader.

    But when does positive thinking become false bravado??

    When does a "never say die" attitude become too rigid thinking??

    Michale

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