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FDA's chief of health for women resigns

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The director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Women's Health resigned Wednesday because the agency has not yet decided whether emergency contraception can be sold over the counter.

The delay in making "morning-after pills" available without a prescription "is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health," Susan Wood, director of the women's health office for nearly five years, said in an e-mail to colleagues and women's health activists.

FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford said Friday that he delayed a decision because it's not clear whether Barr Pharmaceuticals' plan to sell Plan B emergency contraception over the counter to women 16 and older but by prescription to younger teens is legal or enforceable.

Crawford's "decision was not made in consultation with the normal people who are involved with the decision-making at the agency," Wood said in a phone interview. "Even in the commissioner's office, it seems there was very little awareness about what the decision would be. It seemed to be very closely held and not at all transparent to the professional staff."

Wood said her resignation was effective immediately and she has no job plans.

FDA officials would comment on Wood's resignation only in a statement: "The FDA is committed to protecting and advancing women's health, and under Susan Wood's leadership, the agency has made significant strides. Her decision to leave is unfortunate as we work toward solving the complex policy and regulatory issues related to Plan B."

Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., urged the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday to hold a hearing about the delay. "Science has taken a back seat to politics in the FDA's decision-making process for Plan B," they said in a statement.

Some anti-abortion groups believe Plan B causes abortions because it sometimes prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

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