Bush Supports Birth Control for "Responsible Adults"
A year after a White House spokesman was asked whether Bush supports birth control, and more than 300 days after New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney and 19 colleagues asked the same question in a letter (they wrote five letters in total), we finally have an answer from John Agwunobi, assistant secretary for health. In a letter to Rep. Maloney, he writes:
This Administration supports the availability of safe and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception. The Department of Health and Human Services faithfully executes laws establishing Federal programs to to provide contraception and family planning services. The Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid are each significant providers of family planning services.I'm not quite sure how he defines "responsible adults?" Would an 18-year-old qualify? Would I (a single thirty-something) qualify? What about a single mom who just lost her job?
Additionally, this Administration strongly supports teaching abstinence to young people as the only 100 percent effective means of preventing pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Now that Bush is apparently pro-birth control, Rep. Maloney is asking him to reverse the anti-birth control actions of his administration. In a letter sent to Bush yesterday, she wrote:
Although you say you support access to birth control for responsible adults, I am concerned that your administration's seemingly politically-driven policies are impeding access for this very group in number of ways:Let's hope it doesn't take another year to receive a response.
1. In January of 2005, the Justice Department distributed .the first-ever guidelines for the treatment of sexual assault survivors. The 141-page document provides step-by-step medical treatment guidelines for sexual assault patients, including
guidance on sexually transmitted infections, but no information on emergency contraception. News reports published at the time indicated that information about emergency contraception was included in earlier versions of the guidelines, but
was subsequently eliminated. Including this information in the guidelines would provide sexual assault survivors access to an important form of birth control that could help prevent unintended pregnancies and avoid abortions.
2. Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to review an application to make Plan B available over-the-counter in June 2003, the agency has gone to unprecedented lengths to avoid issuing a decision. Most recently, it denied a petition by 60 family planning and health groups to allow sales of the Plan B contraceptive without a prescription. Your political appointees at FDA have put on hold, indefinitely, the decision on whether to make Plan B available over-the-counter, claiming to fear an increase in teenage sexual activity- despite studies showing that availability of emergency contraception does not result in an increase in teenage pregnancy, sexual activity or sexually transmitted diseases. This unscientific, political decision is preventing responsible adults from accessing this important form of birth control and is having a serious impact on peoples' lives, as documented in a recent Washington Post article entitled " FVhat Happens When There Is No Plan B" (June 6,2006) (enclosed).
3. Pharmacists around the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control pills including emergency contraception. As you know, emergency contraception is a time-sensitive drug and works best if taken soon after unprotected sex. By the time a woman contacts a medical provider and obtains a prescription for emergency contraception, she may have only a few hours to obtain and take the drug. By refusing to fill the prescription, pharmacists may prevent women from taking the drug at this crucial time. In addition, 30% of women practicing contraception use the birth control pill. Pharmacists who refuse to fill these prescriptions seriously hinder these women's ability to prevent unintended pregnancy. Your failure to intervene on behalf of American women is troubling and is having serious consequences.
Since you have stated that you support access to birth control, I write to ask that your policies reflect your position. Therefore, I would like to know the following:
1) Will you urge the Department of Justice to incorporate information about emergency contraception in the guidelines for -the treatment of sexual assault survivors?
2) Will you remove political barriers to the scientific process at the FDA and urge the agency to make a decision on the application to sell Plan B over-the-counter?
3) Will you intervene on behalf of American women and work to stop pharmacists from preventing access to birth control pills, including emergency contraception?
To thank Rep. Maloney for pressing this issue, call: 202.225.7944