Obama administration refuses to relax Plan B restrictions

By ,

The federal government Wednesday rejected a request to let young teenage girls buy the controversial morning-after pill Plan B directly off drugstore and supermarket shelves without a prescription.In a rare public split among federal health officials, the Health and Human Services Department overruled a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to make the drug available to anyone of any age without a restriction.

In a statement, FDA Administrator Margaret A. Hamburg said she had decided the medication could be used safely by girls and women of all ages. But she added that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had rejected the move.

“I agree … there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential,” Hamburg said.“However, this morning I received a memorandum from the Secretary of Health and Human Services invoking her authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to execute its provisions and stating that she does not agree with the Agency’s decision to allow the marketing of Plan B One-Step nonprescription for all females of child-bearing potential,” she said.

In a separate statement and letter to Hamburg, Sebelius said she overruled the FDA because she had concluded that data submitted by the company that makes the drug did not “conclusively establish” that it could be used safely by girls of all ages.

“About 10 percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age. It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age,” Sebelius said. “If the application were approved, the product would be available, without prescription, for all girls of reproductive age.”

The surprising decision is a stunning blow to some doctors, health advocates, family-planning activists, members of Congress and others who backed relaxing the restrictions to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“We are outraged that this administration has let politics trump science,” said Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. “There is no rationale for this move. This is unprecedented as evidenced by the commissioner’s own letter. Unbelievable.”

Susan F. Wood of George Washington University, who resigned from the FDA in 2005 because of delays in relaxing restrictions on Plan B, said she was “beyond stunned” by the decision.

“There is no rationale that can justify HHS reaching in and overturning the FDA on the decision about this safe and effective contraception,” Wood said. “I never thought I’d see this happen again.”

Opponents had urged the agency to reject the move, saying such a decision would expose girls and women to potential risks from taking high doses of a potent hormone, interfere with parents’ ability to monitor their children and make it easier for men to prey on vulnerable minors.

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Pelosi Dismisses Catholic Bishops as ‘Lobbyists’

By Edwin Mora  … December 1, 2011   Subscribe to Edwin Mora’s posts

Pelosi Dismisses Catholic Bishops as ‘Lobbyists’—For Opposing Obamacare Reg

Forcing Catholics to Act Against Faith

(CNSNews.com) — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) on Thursday described America’s Roman Catholic bishops as “lobbyists in Washington, D.C.” in their efforts to persuade the Department of Health and Human Service to rescind a proposed regulation under the new health-care law that would force Catholics to act against the teachings of their church by compelling them to purchase health-care plans that cover sterilizations and all-FDA approved contraceptives, including abortifacients.

The proposed regulation, scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1, 2012, would require every health-insurance plan in the United States to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives (which include abortifacients) without charging any co-pay. The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong and that Catholics cannot be involved in them.

CNSNews.com asked Pelosi at her press briefing on Thursday: “In August, HHS issued a proposed regulation under the new health care law that would require that all health care plans cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives. The U.S. Catholic bishops have called the regulation an unprecedented attack on religious freedom and have asked HHS to drop it. Do you agree with the bishops?” 

Noting that she is “a devout Catholic,” Pelosi said she sometimes disagrees with the Catholic bishops when they act as “lobbyists.”

“I don’t know if I agree with your characterization of what the HHS put forth,” Pelosi said, “but as a mother of five children in six years, as a devout Catholic, I have great respect for our bishops when they are my pastor. As lobbyists in Washington D.C., we have some areas of disagreement.

“Again,” she continued, “I don’t understand the proposal as you described it. So, I won’t be able to answer it. But I do think that it’s important for women to have the opportunity to have full reproductive health options available to them and their insurance wherever they receive it. I support the waiver that is there for the churches now. I don’t know the exception as expanded by what you’re saying there.”

The regulation HHS has proposed includes a “religious exemption” that does not apply to individuals who, under Obamacare, will be mandated to buy health insurance. To qualify as a “religious employer” that will get an exemption an organization must meet all of four criteria: their purpose must be the “inculcation of religious values,” they must “primarily employ persons who share the same religious tenets,” they must “primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets,” and they must be organized under the specific section of the Internal Revenue Code used by churches per se.

As drawn, the exemption from the sterilization-and-contraception mandate would not apply to Catholic individuals, Catholic hospitals, Catholic universities and Catholic charitable organizations. Thus, Catholic individuals would be forced to purchase health insurance plans that pay for sterilizations, contraception and abortifacients, in violation of the the teachings of their church, and Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable organizations would be forced to choose between dropping health insurance for their employees or paying for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients in violation of the teachings of the church. 

In September, the Catholics bishops issued a rare “call to action” that was distributed in church bulletins around the country. The bulletin insert stated that the regulation “poses an unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom” [italics in original] and called on Catholics to contact HHS and urge that the proposed regulation be rescinded.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also sent its own comments to HHS in which the bishops said: “Indeed, such nationwide government coercion of religious people and groups to sell, broker, or purchase ‘services’ to which they have a moral or religious objection represents an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.”

The bishops’ comments noted that ulipristal (or “Ella”), which is an abortifacient, is one of the FDA-approved contraceptives that every health care plan would be required to provide under the proposed regulation.

In addressing the very narrowly drawn religious exemption in the proposed regulation, the bishops told HHS that Jesus Christ would not even qualify for it.

“Under such inexplicably narrow criteria—criteria bearing no reasonable relation to any legitimate (let alone compelling) government purpose—even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian Church would not qualify as ‘religious,’ because they did not confine their ministry to their co-religionists or engage only in a preaching ministry,” the bishops said. “In effect, the exemption is directly at odds with the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus teaches concern and assistance for those in need, regardless of faith differences.”

At the White House press briefing on Tuesday, Jake Tapper of ABC News asked White House Spokesman Jay Carney what was going to govern the president’s “decision-making” on whether to impose this proposed regulation on Catholics.

“I’ve heard from a lot of Democrats in the last few weeks who are concerned about President Obama possibly granting an exemption to Catholic churches, hospitals and universities from the requirement that all insurance plans cover contraception,” said Tapper. “I’m wondering if you could shed any light on this decision. I know the President has not yet made a decision, but I think these Democrats, a lot of them in the abortion rights community, are concerned that this is even being discussed.  Could you explain why the President is considering an exemption, and what’s going into his decision-making?”

Carney said the president was undecided on what he was going to do.

“Well, part of the process, Jake, as you know, was seeking and receiving public input before the guidelines that were announced by the Secretary of Health and Human Services would go into effect,” said Carney. “That process did result in public input, as well as resulted in numerous comments from various folks who have concerns about this issue. 

“The President has–this decision has not yet been made,” said Carney. “You can be sure that we want to strike the right balance between expanding coverage of preventive services and respecting religious beliefs.  And that’s the balance that will be sought as this decision is made.”

 

Planned Parenthood passes out tips to promote abortion at Thanksgiving

POSTED AT 4:00 PM ON NOVEMBER 24, 2011 BY TINA KORBE

Often, the holidays are far pleasanter in the abstract than they are in the particulars. Warm intentions to celebrate family with good food, generous attitudes and grateful hearts often give way to heated religious or political debates at one extreme or stiff politeness at the other. It’s tempting to develop a strategy to avoid awkward confrontations — and, on some level, leftover rules of etiquette do compel us to avoid controversial topics when we’re talking to those with whom we don’t have a particularly regular relationship — but, on Thanksgiving, as on any other day, it’s worth it to firmly but graciously defend first principles … especially when opponents of those principles come to the dinner table prepared to muddy the water, obscure the issue and cast you as the intolerant extremist.And, according to LifeNews.com, the New York affiliate of Planned Parenthood has passed out tips to help abortion advocates do just that:

As is expected, the tips Planned Parenthood of New York City gives its supporters involve covering up promotion of abortion with terms like “reproductive health” and focusing on women’s rights. …

“The holidays are upon us! Going home or getting together with relatives for the holidays is always a stressful time, but if your family members are the type who regularly protest outside the local Planned Parenthood, you know that this holiday is going to be a doozy,” PPNYC complains. “Luckily, we have some tips for surviving those awkward conversations. So read on, and bring some diplomacy and understanding to the table along with that pumpkin pie.”

Planned Parenthood also encourages people to push abortions of disabled unborn children on their Thanksgiving guests, by telling them, “We can try to imagine the heartbreak of a family when they get the news that a test has shown there is something wrong with their baby.”

The tips include “Avoid bumper speak talk” and “Remember the big picture” and abortion activists are told, “Debating when life begins or whether or not abortion is federally funded may get you nowhere. Instead focus on your shared values and the big picture—for instance, talk about how you believe everyone should be able to afford to go to the doctor, or how the decision about when and whether to become a parent is a personal one.”

As LifeNews’ Steven Ertelt summarizes, “Anything to ignore the unborn baby.”

If a PPNYC-prepped pro-choicer wants to talk abortion with me today, I’ll be glad to keep it positive and personal, too: Among all the blessings I’m counting this Thanksgiving, I’m first and foremost just so glad and grateful that my parents weren’t more concerned with reproductive health or women’s rights than they were with welcoming me into the world with open arms. And that’s exactly what I wish for every unborn baby — a warm welcome, whether into the home of the biological parent or into the home of an eager adoptive parent. We do have choices — both before and after pregnancy. Abortion need not be one of them.

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