Three years ago, I had the chance to interview Susan Wood, former director of the FDA Office of Women's Health, about that agency's controversial decision on Plan B emergency contraception. In 2005, Wood's group had advised that the so-called "morning after pill" be made available to women without a prescription, but top officials at the agency overruled the decision. It was clear to Wood that the official call was based more on politics (pandering to the religious right, etc.) than on science - and she wound up resigning her post in protest. (Good for her, I thought when I heard the news.)
Later that year, the agency wound up okaying non-prescription sales of the drug, but only for women over 18.
After years of relative silence about Plan B, it was just announced that the FDA is making the drug available without a prescription to girls 17 and older. This is based on the recommendation of a federal judge, who in a ruling last month confirmed Wood's assertion that the agency's decision on Plan B's over-the-counter status was based not on scientific evidence, but on "political and ideological" considerations imposed by the Bush administration.
Many people who care about women's health and rights (like me!) are cheering today, and I'm sure Wood is too. As she told the Washington Post last month: "I think FDA is now in a position where it can make a fair decision because of the change in leadership and the commitment by everyone involved to make science-based decisions. This is a chance for the agency to demonstrate it is back on track."