GOP's War on Science Suffers a Defeat

The Republican war on science suffered a defeat today when the Food and Drug Administration finally approved Plan B for over-the-counter purchase. The President's appointees to the agency and his allies in Congress have been stonewalling this women's health issue for more than three years, despite overwhelming support from the scientific and medical community, as well as from women's health groups. The FDA went so far as to ignore the findings of its own scientific staff, ignoring the facts and distorting public health concerns for political gain.

Former Assistant FDA Commissioner Susan F. Wood resigned in protest, saying she could "no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled." Her courageous stand brought much needed attention to the issue, and today we see it was not in vain. Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray have held the Administration's feet to the fire, providing necessary oversight by preventing Bush crony Andrew von Eschenbach from serving as FDA Director.

Sadly, the furor over Plan B is just one struggle in the Bush Administration's attempts to put politics over science. As Rep. Henry Waxman extensively documented last month, federal support for "abstinence-only" education programs has expanded rapidly under the Bush Administration. The federal government will spend approximately $170 million on abstinence-only education initiatives during the current fiscal year, more than twice the amount spent in fiscal year 2001. As a result, millions of children and adolescents each year receive abstinence-only education, which promotes abstinence from sexual activity while failing to teach basic facts about contraception. You can read Waxman's report here.

The news on Plan B sends a loud and clear message - science can not be trumped by the Republicans' ideology. Reproductive rights, family planning, and contraception are personal medical issues that should be discussed between families and their doctors - not turned into political fodder to appease far right extremists. American women have waited far too long for this crucial victory that it is a step in the right direction.