Lawmakers draft a plan B for Plan B

While the FDA drags its feet, a bipartisan group devises another way to make emergency contraception available over the counter.

Published November 4, 2005 7:46PM (EST)

As Broadsheet reported earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration's 60-day period of public comment on whether to permit emergency contraception to be sold over the counter came to a close on Tuesday. The FDA received thousands of comments on the issue, but getting feedback from the public hasn't brought the agency any closer to a decision on Plan B. In a statement to CBS News on Monday, agency spokeswoman Julie Zawisza made it clear that the FDA plans to continue plodding slowly in the general direction of maybe eventually making a decision: "We will review the public comments as soon as practicable and, taking those comments into account, decide how to proceed," Zawisza said.

Fortunately, four fantastic members of Congress have devised an ingenious end run around the FDA's filibuster tactics. On Thursday, U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., Jay Inslee, D-Wash., Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Chris Shays, R-Conn., introduced a bill -- catchily called the "Plan B for Plan B Act for 2005" -- that would make E.C. available without a prescription until the FDA reaches its decision. If the measure passes, the FDA can keep taking its sweet time, and women will be able to get E.C. as soon as they need it, without having to rush to their healthcare providers within 72 hours of having sex.

Of course, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Congress. And, as far as its proponents are concerned, the goal is really to encourage the FDA to approve Plan B for over-the-counter use, not to legislate around the agency. Still, it couldn't hurt to contact your representative and tell him or her you support a plan B for Plan B. And we should all take the time to thank Crowley, Inslee, Maloney and Shays for taking action.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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