Judge: Obama Administration May Have Politicized Morning After Pill Approval Process

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman heard oral arguments on the Center for Reproductive Rights motion for contempt against the Food and Drug Administration for ignoring scientific evidence and denying women of all ages over-the counter access to the morning after pill. Last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled FDA scientists, citing concerns over the ability of younger girls to “understand the label and use the product appropriately.”

Korman rejected the organization’s motion, but told the Center “to file the appropriate legal motions” and indicated that he would “consider reviewing the government’s refusal to make it easier for girls and women to get the drug.” During the hearing, Korman pressed the FDA on why Sebelius denied over-the-counter access to women 17 and under if she was only worried about the youngest of teens and added that the administration’s handling of the case raised concerns about “whether the decision was based on politics or science.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Landau said “he couldn’t answer that question, both because it was proprietary information and because the issue hadn’t actually been raised for the court to rule on.”

Korman has been very critical of the government’s handling of the morning after pill in the past. In 2009, he found that the Bush FDA acted “arbitrarily” and “capriciously” in restricting over-the-counter access to younger women under 18 and “accused the government of letting ‘political considerations, delays and implausible justifications for decision-making’ cloud the approval process.” Korman’s order forced the FDA to lower the over-the-counter availability age to 17. On Tuesday, he suggested, “it seems to me like we’re going through a re-run.”