There’s a colossal farce taking place over at the FDA. A group of commissioners there, faced with unimpeachable evidence of the reasonably safety of the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B, are desperate to find a rationale for delaying yet again a decision on approving the drug for over-the-counter sales. They’ve come up with a remarkable dodge.
We’d approve the drug for grownups, say the hapless commissioners, but we want to require women under 17 to get a prescription. And how could we possibly enforce that? “We cannot have an inspector in every pharmacy,” complains FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford. So let’s keep the drug, which has awaited approval for two years, away from everyone for a good while longer.
Strangely, the government has not banned the sale of gin and rum to adults because it lacks the manpower to supply every corner store with a full-time ID checker. We do not despair of enforcing the age limit on driving, even though the government has yet to put a G-man in every back seat, demanding a birth certificate before you can turn the ignition. Homeland Security does not dispatch squadrons of troopers to every movie theater to enforce the R rating. Yet somehow, we muddle through.
Is it possible that our FDA commissioners have something else on their mind besides the welfare of those 15- and 16-year old girls? Is there a constituency to be placated? Are there evangelicals to be appeased?
Or, perhaps, do the legions of anti-abortion activists sense that a safe and easily obtainable emergency contraceptive pill could do far more to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. than their own protests could ever accomplish — and hate the idea of losing that fire-up-the-base issue?