Was it a political embarrassment? I thought it was exactly what is helpful to the Obama administration. Instead of being responsible for cheapening contraception and perhaps risking women's health in the process, Obama et al. can say the judge made it happen. It's great political cover.
But that controversy may look like a tempest in a teapot compared with a broader and no less heated discussion that is roiling the medical community: should birth-control pills of any type require a doctor’s prescription? Or should they be available, like Tylenol, on pharmacy shelves?After having won reelection by demagoguing contraception, Obama is mired in the horrible — how horrible? — problem of implementing the Affordable Care Act, with its promise of contraception coverage. What would be more helpful than birth control pills sold over the counter like Tylenol? Oh, it's safe enough say the obstetricians and gynecologists. What are their economic interests here? Do they want a big new stream of patients coming in for simple prescriptions? Perhaps they fear the piddling reimbursements they'll get for this work. If only the federal courts would take the heat for the decision to block access to doctors for routine birth control care. The federal courts could make it seem like it's about — yay! — Women's Rights and not — boo! — cost cutting.
Last December the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released an official position paper concluding that the time had come for birth-control pills to be sold over the counter. It was the first time the group had endorsed such sales, concluding that scientific evidence suggested that the practice was safe and calling it “a potential way to improve contraceptive access and use, and possibly decrease the unintended pregnancy rate.”
But the NYT analysis is not about the economics of Obamacare and things that might disturb liberals. It's about the Warriors on Women, the religionists and pro-lifers. They've been questioning the safety of the morning-after pill, which, unlike regular birth control pills, entails the abortion issue. Making righties seems like the opponents of over-the-counter birth control pills is a great distraction from the cost-cutting in the implementation of Obamacare. If righties are the opponents, opposition — to lefties — is toxic.
That legal dispute [over morning after pills] has highlighted the Obama administration’s hair splitting over the sensitive issue of contraceptive policy. Even though F.D.A. doctors said in 2011 that studies showed that it was safe to sell Plan B, the most common emergency contraceptive, to adolescents over the counter, the administration refused to approve the practice. (It was already available to older women.) That set the stage for the ruling earlier this month by Judge Edward R. Korman of the Eastern District of New York, who called the administration’s action “politically motivated and scientifically unjustified” — essentially an attempt to appease religious conservatives.Surely, the Obama people are privately thanking Judge Korman. Opposition to the need to go to the doctor for birth control is religious conservatism. The judge says it's women's rights!
Politics aside, there are procedural hurdles to clear before packs of birth-control pills can be sold without prescription. First of all, a drug maker would most likely have to apply to the F.D.A. to make the switch....Most likely. Unless the judges step up.