The FDA, Plan B, and Parental Rights

A U.S. District Court Judge in March made news by ordering the FDA to make Plan B, dubbed “the Morning After Pill”, available without a prescription to minors. Citing “political considerations, delays, and implausible justifications for decision-making” on the part of the FDA, the judge ordered that the age at which the drug is available over the counter be lowered from 18 to 17 years. In a decision not to appeal the ruling, the FDA issued the required authorization to Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Montvale, NJ, which markets the drug.

Several news stories at the time of the late-March ruling, and again when the FDA announced its authorization in late-April, addressed the debate over whether the pill promotes sexual promiscuity among teens, whether it amounts to early abortion, whether it protects a young woman’s reproductive rights, and so on.

What no one took into account, however, was the issue of parental rights. Prior to the ruling, the drug was available over the counter to women 18 and older, while those under 18 first had to first obtain a prescription. Although the court reversed this ruling based on data that the drug’s physical effects on 17-year-olds was no different than on adults, neither the judge nor the news reports seemed to consider the emotional vulnerability of minors, nor the role of parents in protecting them, when faced with so consequential a decision.

Even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which we oppose for legal reasons, recognizes that persons under 18 should be accorded additional protections under the law. To make so controversial and significant a product available to minors without requiring medical or parental consent is a tremendous legal step that ought not to be ignored.

The decision over whether or not a minor should access such a drug is one which should include parents. We regret that the dialog regarding the FDA’s decision lacked this important consideration.

The proposed Parental Rights Amendment will uphold current state and federal laws which protect the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children in medical and other health-related areas. The Amendment is not expected to impact this court ruling in any way, but will continue to protect the ability of parents to speak into such major decisions in the lives of their teenaged daughters.

–by, March 28, 2009


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *