The wrong call on Plan B

For all the decisions the president and his team make that I agree with, once in a while Obama administration officials make important mistakes — without so much as a good reason.

Plan B-One Step, the so-called “morning after pill,” won’t be made available over the counter to girls younger than 17, regardless of a previous Food and Drug Administration recommendation, according to a statement by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

In a surprise move, Sebelius invoked her authority as the agency’s head to overrule the recommendation of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research — and the conclusions drawn by FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, according to statements issued today.

I don’t think there’s any real doubt that the decision was politically motivated — why else would HHS overrule sound scientific judgment? — and I can appreciate the reality that says sometimes an administration will have to make political and electoral considerations when dealing with controversies like these. I don’t like it, but I realize policy tradeoffs are routine.

But in this case, the Plan B decision is the wrong policy and it seems like a wrong political move, too. Who’s going to be swayed by restricting teen access to the morning-after pill? Those most likely to applaud the decision are voters who almost certainly didn’t support the president in 2008 and won’t support him in 2012.

It’s the wrong call. Since teen promiscuity almost certainly won’t be affected either way, limiting access to Plan B only serves to guarantee an increase in the number of unwanted teen pregnancies.

Yes, I know it’s still preferable to a Republican administration, which would seek to prevent Plan B sales to literally anyone of any age for any reason, but that’s cold comfort.