Plan B's Strange Politics: While Liberal President Restricts Access, Washington's Republican AG Fights For It

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The Obama administration this week, shockingly, overruled an FDA decision to make morning-after pill Plan B universally available over the counter. Politcos speculated that the president was trying to fend off conservative attacks. And a look at who's defending Plan B access locally shows that politics is indeed a funny business.

That would be Rob McKenna, the Republican state attorney general. Attorneys for his office are currently in federal court, arguing in favor of a state rule that requires pharmacies to stock Plan B and any other medication for which there is a "community demand." (As in the rest of the country, girls 16 and under need a prescription to get the morning after pill.)

The owner of Ralph's Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia and two state pharmacists are trying to overturn the rule, which they say requires them to go against their religious values. Ralph's co- owner Kevin Stormans has explained that he believes Plan B acts like an abortion, even though the FDA has said that the drug prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, but does not end actual pregnancies.

There's been a long history of litigation around the state Pharmacy Board rule, with a series of prior rulings. At one point, McKenna was roundly criticized by pro-choice groups for entertaining a settlement, one that ultimately didn't happen, that would have changed the rule to allow pharmacists to send Plan B seekers elsewhere.

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington brought up the matter in June when McKenna was preparing to announce his run for governor.

"Washington voters have demonstrated that they want a strongly pro-choice governor," the organization said in in a statement, and his willingness to backtrack on Plan B access meant they wouldn't get want in McKenna. What's more, NARAL accused McKenna of being "determinedly vague" on pro-choice issues.

McKenna, a Catholic, has said he accepts state voters' support for the right to choose, but has advocated for some limitations, such as parental consent in the case of teenagers.

Whatever his personal views, of course, McKenna is obligated, as the state's lawyer, to defend the Pharmacy Board's rule. But his doing so, undoubtedly, serves him politically. While Obama needs to dodge the liberal extremist tag to win nationally, McKenna needs to avoid being labeled a conservative extremist to have a chance of winning a blue state.

A win on the Plan B lawsuit wouldn't hurt.

 
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