Nightly News | December 07, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We begin here tonight with a big story, but one that could not be a more personal topic, especially among parents of young teenagers. It's about Plan B , sometimes called the morning-after contraceptive pill , and how close this country came today to allowing it to be freely sold over the counter, on demand, without prescription. It looked like a done deal, in fact, until the Obama administration today did what no administration has ever done. It overruled a decision by its own FDA that would have made emergency contraception available without prescription, and that would include girls 16 and under. We begin tonight with this surprise decision that takes us right to the intersection of medicine, science and politics. Here is NBC 's Anne Thompson .
ANNE THOMPSON reporting: The secret life of teenagers caught in the crossfire of politics and science. A day after accompanying President Obama to Kansas , Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration . She maintained the status quo on Plan B , the morning-after pill, available to women 16 years old and younger only if they have a prescription.
Ms. SUSAN WOOD (Former FDA Assistant Commissioner): I had expected it to be a better day for good news for women and access to emergency contraception , and this has been a very disappointing day.
THOMPSON: The FDA found "adequate and reasonable, well-supported and science-based evidence" to allow Plan B to be sold over the counter to females of child-bearing age.
THOMPSON: But Sebelius argued the data didn't show girls as young as 11 would understand how to use the pill, writing, "There are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age." Two years ago the president pledged scientific integrity in his administration.
President BARACK OBAMA: It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda.
THOMPSON: Today those who applauded him then say Sebelius ignored studies showing even the youngest women can understand Plan B .
Ms. CYNTHIA PEARSON (National Women's Health Network): There's very good research on that. The secretary's statement, nicely as it's written, is just really a cover for what I believe was a political decision.
THOMPSON: An administration official denies politics played a role. Those usually critical of this administration praised the decision.
Ms. JEANNE MONAHAN (Family Research Council): This administration has promised a commitment to science and transparency, and I'm grateful. I think today they acted in that way.
THOMPSON: For this mother of a teenage daughter it is a personal issue.
Unidentified Woman: I would hope that she would come and tell me, you know, before, after, whatever. I don't care. But I would want her to say something. But I don't think she needs a prescription. It's her body.
THOMPSON: As the government holds the line on this aspect of teenage life. Anne Thompson , NBC News, New York.