Democrats Place Another Hold on Bush's FDA Nominee

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - President Bush on Wednesday nominated Andrew von Eschenbach as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, but two liberal Democrats placed an immediate hold on the nomination.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Patti Murray (Wash.) accuse the FDA of "dragging its feet" on an application to sell Plan B emergency contraception over the counter, and until the FDA makes a decision on Plan B, they won't allow von Eschenbach's nomination to proceed.

Clinton and Murray also placed a hold on the nomination of former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, but they lifted it in July 2005 after the Bush administration promised the Senate that the FDA would make a decision on Plan B by Sept. 1.

It never happened, however, and Democrats accused the Bush administration of reneging on its promise.

The FDA said at the time it couldn't decide how to ensure that the drug is available over-the-counter for women over age 17 while remaining prescription-only for those under the age of 17.

Crawford resigned in September, two months after he was confirmed to the FDA's top job.

On Wednesday, in a joint statement, Clinton and Murray said the FDA, under the Bush administration, has "squandered" the American people's trust and put ideology over science.

"We will place a hold on the nomination of Dr. von Eschenbach until the FDA issues a decision on Plan B, yes or no," their statement said.

Abortion advocates insist that over-the-counter sales of Plan B would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

But pro-life groups object to the morning-after pill on ethical grounds, saying that in cases where fertilization already has occurred, the drug may kill a developing embryo by preventing implantation in the womb.

They also say wider availability of the drug through over-the-counter sales raises health concerns -- including an increased rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

Von Eschenbach, the director of the National Cancer Institute, also serves as acting FDA commissioner.

See Earlier Story:
'Pro-Abortion Groups Complain of 'Right-Wing Politics' at FDA (29 Aug. 2005)

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