Charlotte Allen chastises the Bush administration , and even President Bush personally, for the recent decision by the Food and Drug Administration to approve for sale "Plan B," a drug that prevents or terminates pregnancy if taken soon after intercourse.
Since I believe that it is always and everywhere wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being, and since I further believe that the being that results from a conception between human gametes is a human being, I thus believe that abortion, including by the use of abortifacient drugs, is morally wrong. But that said, Allen’s response to this decision by the FDA is an overreaction.
The decision as to whether Plan B ought to be approved for sale is a decision to be made in accordance with the law. The relevant statute is §505(d) of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act , which provides in pertinent part that the Secretary of Health and Human Services "shall" (that is, has a legal obligation to) approve a drug unless he finds that one or more specifically enumerated conditions obtains. These conditions concern such things as adequacy of the information filed by the applicant seeking approval of the drug, the sufficiency of the tests undertaken to prove the drug safe, the safety of the methods and facilities used in manufacturing the drug, and the efficacy of the drug in its intended use.
Assuming that none of these conditions were met, there was no legal basis for the secretary to deny approval of Plan B. That Plan B, when used as intended, causes the death of innocent human beings in utero , while of paramount concern morally, is not legally relevant. If the FDA continued to withhold approval of Plan B, the drug’s manufacturer could have sued the FDA in federal court and, in all human probability, obtained a ruling ordering the FDA to approve the drug for sale.
Now, perhaps someone in the position of the Commissioner of the FDA or the Secretary of Health and Human Services, faced with these circumstances, ought to resign rather than approve Plan B. Perhaps, but I think not. People in the pro-life movement need to keep their heads and realize that there are legal and political realities that limit an officeholder’s freedom. "In a commonwealth and in the councils of princes," St. Thomas More writes in Utopia, "if ill opinions cannot be quite rooted out, and you cannot cure some received vice according to your wishes, you must not therefore abandon the commonwealth, for the same reasons you should not forsake the ship in a storm because you cannot command the winds. . . . You ought rather to cast about and to manage things with all the dexterity in your power, so that if you are not able to make them go well they may be as little ill as possible."
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