Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, both Democrats, are blocking confirmation of President Bush’s latest choice to head the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach. The senators acted in hopes that it will force the FDA to end its disgraceful three-year stall on a promise to make the “morning after” pill available over the counter.

Twice, prestigious advisory panels to the FDA have voted overwhelmingly to recommend that this pill, also called Plan-B, be made available without prescription. But Bush’s first choice to head the FDA, Dr. Lester Crawford, used delaying tactics to block a decision. Planned Parenthood charges that the real source of the stalling is Bush himself and his ultra-right, anti-abortion hatchet men in the White House. The administration, the group says, “has turned its back on one of the safest and most effective ways of decreasing the rate of abortion: making the emergency contraception available without a prescription.”

Dr. Susan Wood, assistant FDA commissioner for women’s health and director of the FDA Office of Women’s Health, resigned last year because of Crawford’s stalling. She said the commissioner’s decision “to limit women’s access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women’s health.”

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, says the continued blocking of Plan-B “is just another in a long line of decisions that make women’s health secondary to right-wing politics.” She adds, “This administration is determined to turn the FDA into an arm of the Republican Party.”

The administration’s stalling on Plan-B and its politicization of the FDA fit in with the across-the-board offensive targeting women’s health and reproductive rights as upheld in Roe v. Wade. Republican operatives are hoping this will energize their far-right supporters for the November elections.

All of us who support women and family values should tell our senators to insist the FDA stop pandering to the ultra-right and approve Plan-B for over-the-counter sale. Then we need to get busy and defeat the GOP in November.

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