By Peter J. Smith

Dr. Andrew C. von EschenbachWASHINGTON, D.C., August 2, 2006 ( – President Bush’s nomination of Acting Commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach to head the federal Food and Drug Administration has drawn the ire of both pro-lifers and pro-abortion supporters, especially regarding the acting FDA head’s proposal for permitting the over-the-counter sale of the abortifacient “emergency contraceptive,” known as Plan B.

Last Monday, von Eschenbach revealed that the FDA was recommencing negotiations with Barr Laboratories, Plan-B’s manufacturer, over renewing their application for selling the drug without a prescription to adult women, provided the company had a plan to restrict minors from obtaining the drug. (

“Plan B”, the abortifacient “emergency contraceptive”, is designed to suppress ovulation or to cause the abortion of a conceived embryo by preventing the embryo’s implantation in the womb if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse.

The move, which came one day before the beginning of von Eschenbach’s confirmation hearings, has garnered the attention of pro-family organizations Family Research Council (FRC), and Concerned Women of America (CWA).

In a letter to Sen. Mike Enzi, Chairman of the Senate’s Health Committee, FRC’s Vice President for Government Affairs Tom McClusky blasted von Eschenbach’s nomination and urged Sen. Enzi to oppose his confirmation.

“Dr. von Eschenbach has shown a history of ignoring any concern for women’s health in exchange for political expediency,” said McClusky. “Because of actions prior to, and as acting FDA Commissioner, FRC opposes his confirmation and reserves the right to score any vote in favor of his nomination negatively in our annual scorecard.”

McClusky criticized von Eschenbach for his past history in directing a National Cancer Institute discussion on the abortion-breast cancer link, which McClusky says was jerry rigged from the beginning to insure that no evidence for such a link could be presented fairly. According to McClusky, “No honest hearing was given, and Dr. von Eschenbach ensured that no dissenting voices were heard in the final report”.

The FRC’sÂmost vehementÂcomplaint, however, is that under von Eschenbach’s direction the federal agency has taken no initiative to act on the disastrous health risks of the abortifacient drug RU-486, which has caused 10 deaths, and large numbers of severe and life-threatening complications in women.

“There is no indication the FDA is serious under Dr. von Eschenbach about investigating the irregularities surrounding the original FDA approval of RU-486, nor the aberrant FDA approvals of other drugs such as Ketek, Ambisome and Cancidas”, said McClusky. “More troubling the FDA seems willing to ignore the serious threat to women’s health posed by RU-486.”

Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) President Wendy Wright indicated to CitizenLink that CWA would take a “wait-and-see” attitude toward von Eschenbach’s appointment. However she said, “It seems as if some people, particularly in the FDA, are willing to put women’s health at risk.” A CWA press release Monday denounced the FDA, saying the agency “consistently puts women second to politics.”

Although Eschenbach’s reinitiating negotiations over Plan B has pro-life groups as FRC and CWA outraged, the move has not placated Democrats opposed to his confirmation either.

“We all know what’s going on here,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D- Iowa), one of the Democrats trying to wrangle a commitment from von Eschenbach to make Plan B available to minors without prescription. “It’s the disregard of science for ideological concerns.”

Von Eschenbach shot back that his decision to consider allowing over the counter status to women 18 and older was founded “not on a political ideology, but on a medical ideology.” Eschenbach maintained that available data did not support the safe use of the drug by minors, especially not on an over-the-counter basis.

“Unfortunately, this is not just about Plan B,” Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) informed von Eschenbach. “Once we start politicizing the FDA there is no stopping it; and from my perspective, it is essential that we draw the line. And we’re drawing the line right here.”

The committee will decide eventually whether to forward von Eschenbach’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote. However, until the FDA approves Plan B for non-prescription status, Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray of (D-WA) have indicated their intent to obstruct von Eschenbach’s nomination.

FDA Reopens Debate on Over-the-Counter “Morning After Pill”


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