PLAN B: Senators Call on Sec. Sebelius to Explain the Science Behind Plan B Decision

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, 14 U.S. Senators, led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), called on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to provide the scientific basis behind her decision to limit the availability Plan B emergency contraception. Last Wednesday, Secretary Sebelius overruled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by refusing to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter, despite the FDA’s recommendation to do so.

“We feel strongly that FDA regulations should be based on science,” the Senators wrote today. “We ask that you share with us your specific rationale and the scientific data you relied on for the decision to overrule the FDA recommendation. On behalf of the millions of women we represent, we want to be assured that this and future decisions affecting women’s health will be based on medical and scientific evidence.”

The letter was sent from Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Carl Levin (D-MI), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The full text of the letter follows:

December 13, 2011

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius                                          
Secretary                                                                                
US Department of Health and Human Services                    
200 Independence Avenue, SW                                            
Washington, DC  20201                                                        

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

We are writing to express our disappointment with your December 7, 2011 decision to block the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendation to make Plan B One-Step available over-the-counter. We feel strongly that FDA regulations should be based on science.  We write to you today to ask that you provide us with the rationale for this decision. 

As numerous medical societies and patient advocates have argued, improved access to birth control, including emergency contraception, has been proven to reduce unintended pregnancies.  Nearly half of all pregnancies that occur in the United States each year are unintended. Keeping Plan B behind the counter makes it harder for all women to obtain a safe and effective product they may need to prevent an unintended pregnancy. 

We ask that you share with us your specific rationale and the scientific data you relied on for the decision to overrule the FDA recommendation. On behalf of the millions of women we represent, we want to be assured that this and future decisions affecting women’s health will be based on medical and scientific evidence.

   Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator                                                          

Kirsten Gillibrand                                   
United States Senator                                            

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator                                                        

Richard Blumenthal                                   
United States Senator                                            

Daniel Akaka
United States Senator                                                         

Carl Levin                                   
United States Senator                                             

John Kerry
United States Senator                                                             

Tom Harkin                                   
United States Senator                                            

Al Franken 
United States Senator                                                            

Frank Lautenberg                                   
United States Senator                                            

Bernie Sanders 
United States Senator                                                     

Ron Wyden                                   
United States Senator                                             

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator                                                      

Jeff Merkley                                   
United States Senator                                             

Press Contact

Kate Hansen (Blumenthal), 202-224-2823