Obama Puts Personal Feelings Aside on 'Plan B'

Obama administration approves 'Plan B' pill for women and girls of all ages, but president still opposes it.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Obama administration reversed course suddenly on its feelings on 'Plan B' Monday night, saying it would allow the emergency contraceptive to be available over the counter to women and girls of all ages after years of long-standing opposition.

[READ: Plan B Makers Spent $57 Million Lobbying Washington in 2011, 2012]

But that doesn't mean President Barack Obama has changed his mind. A senior White House official told the Washington Post the president still opposes over the counter access to emergency contraceptives for girls as young as 12.

Some in the medical community see the president's continued opposition as personal, not scientific.


"He's speaking from the emotions of a parent who has to make a decision on how his daughters behave," says Jeanne A. Conry, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a medical professional group that has long supported over the counter access to emergency contraceptives. "I think he's speaking emotionally. But we, as an organization, have always said: please, look at the science."

Other medical professional groups oppose making 'Plan B' available to teens. The American College of Pediatricians calls over the counter distribution of the pill "risky business" because it bypasses parental involvement and could encourage more sexual activity.

[ALSO: Women's Groups Blast Adminstration's Decision to Fight Plan B Access Case]

Obama himself has previously said his opposition is personal. In late 2011, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellius surprised medical groups and reproductive health groups alike by overruling the FDA on allowing Plan B for women of all ages, Obama said he supported the decision "as the father of two daughters."

And reproductive health groups say it's clear Obama hasn't changed his mind because he still approaches the issue as a father.

"I think we all wish there was some magic way to keep them from sexual activity until they are ready," says Susanna Baruch, CEO and president of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. "But public policy can't be about the wishful thinking of parents about making their children safe by denying them something they may need."

[DEBATE CLUB: Should the Plan B Morning After Pill Be Available to 15-Year-Olds?]

Conry at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is heartened Obama made a public policy decision that differed from his personal beliefs.

"When the administration came out against it, and you're a practicing physician, and you know in your heart what is best for your patients, it is hard," she says. "But to then have them change course, I really respect that. The policy change is what's really important."

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