All In   |  April 05, 2013

Judge slams Obama admin’s ‘bad faith’ on emergency contraception rule

A federal judge ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception available for women of all ages without prescription. Chris Hayes discusses the ruling with Nancy Northup, Zerlina Maxwell, Eesha Pandit, and Karen Hunter.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this is federal district court judge edwardman. there are 27 of them in the eastern district alone and i haven't put in the time to make any definitive determination about who in fact is the best looking district judge in the country. but edward r. coreman is not in the news today because of his looks. he is in the news because of his news. he is on the front page news today because this morning he issued an absolutely ex currying resulting about an obama decision about contraception. it is a 59-page take down of the obama administration in which he berates the obama administration for quote a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence. what the obama did is this. emergency birth control , plan b , was available for women 17 and older without prescription. but because of the age restriction you couldn't find it on the shelves. you had to ask the firm sift. if you were under 17 you had to get a prescription. but doctors and scientists at fda determined that plan b was safe without the restrictions. they were about to lift them to put them on drugstore shelves. that was at the end of 2011 . it was a shocking and controversial move, the obama administration stepped in and stopped it. health and human services administrator blocked services to emergency birth control . it was the first time, first time ever, the hhs had ever publicly overruled the fda . in history. which naturally brought forth allegations the administration was putting politics above science . this decision did, after all, approximately coincide with the start of the 2012 presidential campaign. but the reason the obama administration gave for overruling signs behind the fda decision was essentially some girls start their periods early. quote, about 10% of girls are able to bear children at 11.1 years of age. there are differences between the older adolescent and younger girls of reproductive age. the product would be available without prescription for all girls of reproductive age. that explanation did not impress the new england journurn journal of medicine. it was based on politics rather than science . it cannot be based on issues of safety since a 12-year-old can purchase a lethal dose of acetaminophen in any pharmacy for about $11. no questions asked. the side effect of adverse effect of a $50 dose of levonorgestrel are nausea and delay of menses by several days. he wrote the motivation for secretary's action is obviously political and even with eyes shut to the motivation for the secretary's decision the reason she provide are so unpersuasive are to call into question her good faith. he found that it is hardly clear the secretary had the power to issue the order and if she did have the authority her decision was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. and he reversed that decision ordering fda to make emergency birth control available without a prescription and without point of sale age restrictions within 30 dayes. which is to say that a big and important change in public health policy is set to take effect next month. politically there is a broader point to be recognized here. our politics will seemingly never stop going hay wire when women 's reproductive rights are on the table. there is a special universe of politics where the issue of control over women 's reproductive processes exist apart from regular rules of any other kind of politics. there is no politics and crazy vagina politics. you can see it the way this issue played out in this particular administration . you will see two clips of the same president talking about science and medicine from two different political universes. the first is the normal political universe. the second is a crazy vaginal political universe.

>> to ensure that in this new administration we base our public policies on the soundest science . that we appoint sooif scientific advisors based on credentials and experience. neither politics or ideology. ander with open and honest with the american people about the science behind their decisiones. that's how we will hashes of power of science to achieve our goals. as the father two of daughters, i think it is important for us to make sure that, you know, we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine. and as i understand it, the reason kathleen made this decision, was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able, alongside bubble gum or batteries, be able to buy a -- a medication that potentially if not used properly could end up having an adverse effect .

>> here have you a reasonable pro science administration making an skplisibleably archie bunker argument. even though the administration has no ideological or commit plit cal commitment to control young women 's sex lives because the politics in this country get crazy around women having sex . simple as that. joining me at the table, nancy northup and the crunch feminist collective, and pulitzer prize winner a 5e7b lecture.

>>> let's say you're barack obama . and you're like, do not touch this with a million-foot pole because you do not want the sentences 11-year-old and pregnant next to anything that happens in the news in election cycle. and you politically interfere. let's just concede that, right? but the case is so weak, the judge now overturns it. and so, you get the best of both worlds . you don't have to own it politically. you went to bat for the fathers and mothers of america. but now this is going to be made public anyway. what do you think about that argument?

>> if that's the case, we would hope then that the president will not have the department of justice appeal this decision and do what's right --

>> there is a cast of whether that's the case.

>> right. and do what is right for american women . can which is, let this be over-the-counter for women of all ages.

>> why are you so cynical?

>> i'm not. i was playing host.

>> is it possible that president truly does care. he has a daughter in this age group . and i don't know, parents on this panel, but do you want your 11, 12, 13-year-old going in and getting this next to the tick tacks and the thin mint and being able to just do this without your permission, without any kind of parental guidance whatsoever? we have driver license restrictions, right? you can't get a driver's license in this country. you can't vote until you are 18. you can't buy alcohol until you are 21. there are restrictions for a reason. i don't think there is anything wrong with a cut-off.

>> what the judge says, is this is 7b just about 11-year-olds. this is about the majority of folks who access, women , who can't get it when they need it because the pharmacy gate is down, because --

>> the cut-off is 17? isn't that a reasonable cut-off?

>> you still have to t.go to the pharmacist.

>> there is the two things. the principle of the cut off of 17 then the after effect of being 17.

>> and it is claiming it is safe --

>> emergency contraception .

>> emergency contraception . but the first part of his statement is that he has two daughters and the question i care most about is what context young women are growing up in and what they are being taught to think about, their own access to reproductive healthcare. do we want them to grow up in a context where they are talking about shame and fair and stig na about what they need or think they need or walking into a pharmacy and get what they need? or are we asking them to grow up in an era with information is plentiful. they get all of the information they need. i think the bigger opportunity with this ruling is to push that conversation and say, what context do we want young women growing up in?

>> i'm feeling old. i grew up in a time when wr 12 and 13-year-olds shouldn't be having sex . we are talking about girls , not women 's rights, but girls who don't have the ka pass it the make the decisions. now able to go in and willie nilly get there without any checks.

>> i think the image of 12 or 13-year-old going in to get emergency contraception is not scary to me. the image of a 12 or 13-year-old pregnant without resources an ak set to support, that is scary.

>> what about a deadly std. no one is talking about that.

>> condoms for men are easily accessible --

>> there are no prescription for condoms. i want to make this clear. there or two issues on the table. there is this principled issue about this kind of, what our moral values are about 12 and 13-year-old girls having sex , right? there is a medical issue about the actual taking of the thing that you put in your mouth and chemicals going through your body is physically harmful. which science determines is not really. some nausea. then there's the practical issue of what the policy, as currently constituted is, which is with the cut off at 17 means everyone has to go to get it behind the counter. and research done indicates that in many cases, that cuts off the access to emergency contraception to women who can could get it, right?

>> right. i think what is getting lost in actually a lot of the press coverage today is back to this --

>> don't get me started.

>> judge coreman spent eight years with the case. spent a lot of time with the record. he said flatly, this isn't about 11-year-olds. that was an excuse. an excuse used by the administration . this isn't about whether there are two standards when we approve drugs for overthe counter sales. a standard for all drugs except contraception. which is it safe and effective for all ages. and then politics. the judge says we can't do that. we have to have one standard. we have to be fair.

>> i also want it talk about ak speps when we talk about access and access to healthcare and medicine we have to talk about who is most vulnerable if we increase restrictions. in this context, it is not just young women 11 and 12. but not having access to over the county emergency contraception affects low income women , women of color of and i want to live in a world where everyone who needs healthcare, and it is safe for them, can get it.

>> you don't need an abortion pill .

>> it is not aabortion pill.

>> i'm sorry. i threw that out there.

>> you're trolling, karen.

>> yeah.

>> this is not like you are getting an --

>> this is a right wing talking --

>> it is not an abortion pill .

>> all right. my point is still that this is not a need. this is something that he --

>> this is a need. here is the point i would say. i guess this goes back around to the original point about the politics of this. i understand why they are touchy. i do understand, if i were david axelrod . if i put myself in david axelrod 's shoes and we sat in the oval office and talked about politics. i would say, about all of the thousand battles you have to fight, let's just not fight this one. an amoral perspective. this could be explosive because of the nexus of this extremely provocative example.

>> it is scary when you have a member of the president's cabinet that oversees the agency that is supposed to be following rules and regulations of drugs. we want to trust the fda in all decisiones. what does it mean we can't trust in decision of reproductive health . it is just important that agencies do not get involved in politics and can make these kind of healthcare decisions on the merit.

>> that's an important point. there is a legal process here, which is the basis of the decision.

>> i want young women to have control over their bodies because then they can control their destiny.

>> yes.

>> that's the core of the issue. i want you to have control over it from 11 to 87. i want you to have control.

>> when they get jobs they can control --

>> that's the new standard.

>> in my household --

>> the head of the fda with a drug contingency of tamper proof bottle on emergency contraception . you have to have a job to open it.

>> here is the thing, it doesn't work, right.

>> right.

>> what helps is more information, more access, more safety, less stigma. that's what our goal should be.

>> i want to talk about this camel hairs thing. i think it is important. like someone said something we don't like. but there is some deep stuff there. you wrote a great piece about it. let's talk about that after