Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Yankee Doodling

Science trumps politics on emergency contraception

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 09 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2217
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

US federal court overrules Obama administration policy

When President Obama was first elected in 2008, his supporters hoped that many things would change. One of them was the previous administration’s contemptuous disregard for and subversion of scientific integrity throughout the government to serve political ends. Examples ranged from misrepresenting research on the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex to censoring testimony on climate change by government scientists to posting erroneous data linking abortions and breast cancer.1 Many people, including me, wrote about this and hoped things would improve with the new administration.2

One of the most egregious examples of politics and ideology trumping science was the case of emergency contraception—the “morning after” pill taken to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse has occurred. It was available in the US as “Plan B” (great ironic brand name), but only by a doctor’s prescription. The pills had been shown in studies and in the experience of other countries to be safe and effective—and, of course, much more widely used—when made available “over the counter” (OTC) in pharmacies without …

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