Commentary: FDA ruling on morning-after pill a victory for science

This editorial appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

It's easy to agree on at least one point with activists who criticized the Food and Drug Administration's announcement Thursday that it will approve sale of the morning-after pill Plan B without a prescription to 17-year-olds: The agency should keep politics out of its decisions.

The disagreement is about just when politics crept, or galloped, into the FDA's decision making. The three-year delay in approving the non-prescription sale of Plan B, even after outside advisers and internal reviewers recommended it, was based on politics rather than science.

U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in New York saw it that way, too. Several advocacy groups challenged the FDA's restrictions on Plan B and the case wound up in Korman's court.

In his decision, handed down last month, Korman ordered the agency to reverse its earlier decision, saying the FDA had been "arbitrary and capricious," acting under the influence of the "political and ideological" bent of the Bush administration.

Korman is right, and the FDA is absolutely correct to say it will obey his ruling and allow 17-year-olds access to Plan B, if the drug's maker requests the change, as it has indicated it will.

The victory here is not for abortion rights, as advocates on both sides claim. Research suggests that the most ambitious or dire predictions – depending on your point of view – of the societal impact of widespread availability of morning-after pills have not proven out.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.