Friday, May 3, 2013

Science is True! Believes No Politician Ever, Apparently.

Back at the beginning of April, a US district court judge, in an official ruling, told Kathleen Sebelius, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, that her 2011 decision to restrict the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception to women over age 17 was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable," and that "the motivation for [her] action was obviously political."



Another point for rational thought! (artist credit)

When the decision was put down, the prez was up for re-election, you see, and despite the FDA's decree that emergency contraception is safe for over-the-counter use, AND the American Academy of Pediatrics' assertion that emergency contraception is safe for all sexually mature females, Sebelius (who has zero medical OR scientific education, by the way) decided that all those doctors and scientists were full of it.

"After careful consideration of the FDA summary review, I have concluded that the data submitted by Teva [Plan B's maker] do not conclusively establish that Plan B One-Step should be made available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age."

The decision's critics felt like it ignored science and reason, and put young women needlessly at risk of unwanted pregnancy in order to pander to conservative, religious voters.  I think they have a point, frankly.

...and pandering makes me a sad panda.

Well, as a fan of science AND reason, I was a fan of Judge Korman's recent decision to invalidate Director Sebelius's lame, lame decision.  I was all "thank goodness that someone with some actual legal clout called the government out on being so obnoxiously self-interested!" 

Justissssssssss!

Well, as organizations that have been called out are wont to do, the Department and the FDA carefully reviewed their decisions, and, what do you know, they said, "by golly, maybe we were too strict.  Let's make it available over the counter to all women...over the age of 15."

No justisssssss...

Their reasoning was that "the data reviewed by the agency demonstrated that women 15 years of age and older were able to understand how Plan-B One-Step works, how to use it properly, and that it does not prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease."  Funny...that's not what the data told them before.

hm.

But, the truth is, this is not really a bad thing.  I mean, I would prefer that empirical data and recommendations of experts were used to make these decisions and not politicians who don't know what the hell they're talking about half the time, but this is a step in the right direction.  It also actually addresses the main issue with making the drug available only to older girls - only about 13% of girls are at risk of pregnancy before age 15.



Seems to me a bigger problem is that 15-year-olds will have to provide state-issued proof of birthdate in order to be able to buy emergency contraception, which is not something all 15-year-olds have.  I mean, it's not the end of the world, but it definitely seems like an unnecessary hurdle when there's no actual reason for it.  

Reproductive health is FUN!

BUT!  Just when it seemed that things weren't so bad, they got gross again!  The US attorney's office has ALREADY filed papers to overturn Judge Korman's ruling, and that he stay the order until the appeal has gone through.  Because it will confuuuuuuuuse people.

huuuuuuuuuuuh???

So really, politicians, you guys are killin' me.  What are you going to want next, approval over all scientific research before it even starts, so you can make sure it conforms to what you want it to?  Oh...you do want that.  Sigh.

We all must remember that no matter how much stupidity there is in Washington DC, we must remember there are also people like Neil Degrasse Tyson.  He can keep us sane.

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”

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