Liberals Oppose Bush's FDA Nominee

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday is expected to vote on Lester Crawford's nomination as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, but like many other Bush nominees, this nominee also faces liberal opposition.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America oppose Crawford, because he has refused to guarantee an FDA decision on access to emergency contraception.

Although an FDA advisory panel voted to allow over-the-counter sales of a drug called Plan B in December 2003, the FDA in May 2004 decided to keep it prescription-only for the time being. The FDA said there was no proof that Plan B could be used safely by young women.

Crawford's critics want him to guarantee that the FDA will make a final decision on the pending application to sell Plan B over the counter, but in his current capacity as acting FDA commissioner, Crawford has refused to make any guarantees.

In April, Sens. Murray (D-WA) and Clinton (D-NY) said they would block a vote by the full Senate on Crawford's nomination until the FDA rules on Plan B. "I want a decision one way or the other," Sen. Murray was quoted as saying in early April.

Sen. Clinton accused the FDA, under Crawford's administration, of substituting "politics and ideology for science and facts."

Planned Parenthood insists that emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. But conservative groups note that the hormone dosage in morning-after pills is much stronger than that in birth control pills, which do require a doctor's prescription.

"The FDA is right to be cautious about making a potent drug that can harm women available next to candy bars and toothpaste," said Wendy Wright, senior policy director of Concerned Women for America, in May 2004.

But Planned Parenthood's Interim President Karen Pearl said Crawford "should rule on emergency contraception, a safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion, before the Senate votes on his nomination.

"The American people deserve an FDA that will protect their health and safety by putting science ahead of politics," Pearl said.

She strongly urged President Bush to "select nominees who are committed to sound science and advancing public health."

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was scheduled to take up Crawford's nomination Wednesday morning.

See Earlier Story:
No Over-the-Counter Sales of 'Morning-After Pill' - for Now (7 May 2004)