Senate Dems break with White House on morning-after pill

Fourteen Senate Democrats publicly broke with the White House on Tuesday over the Plan B contraceptive.

The senators, led by Patty Murray (D-Wash.), asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to spell out her scientific rationale for overruling scientists last week who said Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, should be made available without a prescription to women of all ages.

“On behalf of the millions of women we represent, we want to be assured that this and future decisions affecting women’s health will be based on medical and scientific evidence,” the senators wrote in a letter to Sebelius.

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The 14 senators’ letter deepens a growing rift among Democrats over Plan B. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was openly critical of the decision, and liberal advocacy groups slammed Sebelius’s intervention as reminiscent of the George W. Bush administration.

The lawmakers expressed “disappointment” with the fact that Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration, and asked her to provide the “specific rationale and the scientific data” on which she relied.

Career scientists at the FDA said last week that Plan B should be more widely available without a prescription. Girls younger than 17 currently need a prescription for the drug.

But Sebelius intervened and overruled the FDA’s determination. Critics saw the move as purely political — an election-season attempt to ward off Republican attacks charging that President Obama has given underage girls access to a pill that some believe causes miscarriages.

Sebelius has denied any political motivations, though her letter overturning the FDA’s decision included only a general statement about why she believed the agency’s scientists were wrong.

Obama has said he supports Sebelius’s decision.

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