Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Monday that the Obama administration was wrong not to legalize over-the-counter sales of an after-sex contraception to girls under 17.
Mr. Bloomberg, who has taken a strong interest in public health and prides himself on deferring to guidance from scientists, addressed the issue of the medication in Queens, just before joining Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, at a discussion of jobs in the health care field.
Last week, Ms. Sebelius publicly overruled the Food and Drug Administration, which had recommended that the contraceptive pill, known as Plan B One-Step, be sold over the counter to girls 16 and under. If taken soon after unprotected sex, the Plan B pill cuts the chances of a pregnancy in half. The medication is already available over the counter to those 17 and over.
Ms. Sebelius’s action was widely seen as an attempt by the Obama administration to avoid a potentially bruising debate with social conservatives heading into an election year.
On Monday, asked by a reporter about the decision, Mr. Bloomberg said he disagreed with it. He said he supported the position of the F.D.A.’s commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who had recommended approving use of the medication, without a prescription, for all girls and women of child-bearing age.
Ms. Hamburg’s recommendation “was based not on politics — it was based on real scientific research,” Mr. Bloomberg said, adding, “Why Sebelius decided to overrule her, I don’t know.”
“The bottom line is, we have many too many out-of-wedlock births in this country,” he said. “And, yes, the people who say young girls shouldn’t get pregnant, they’re 100 percent right. And we do in this city a lot to try to teach people and inform them of the consequences of being parents.”
“It would be much better if the young girls didn’t get pregnant,” he continued, but since they do, “I think that this should be available to anybody.”
Ms. Sebelius later told reporters that the decision was not “about politics,’’ and that the company that makes the drug, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, could reapply for permission to make the medication more available if there is “additional data,’’ according to Bloomberg News.
Teenage pregnancy has been a major public health issue in New York City, although births to teenagers have declined in the last decade. In 2009, girls 17 and younger gave birth to 2,378 children in New York City.
Asked if he thought the administration’s decision was motivated by politics, Mr. Bloomberg declined to answer. “I have no idea; you’ll have to ask the commissioner,” he said.
The mayor, an independent, has been a frequent critic of elected officials, most often Republicans, who, he says, disregard or manipulate science for political ends.
At a recent forum on business innovation, he said, “We have presidential candidates who don’t believe in science,” apparently referring to members of the Republican presidential field.
“I mean, just think about it: can you imagine a company of any size in the world where the C.E.O. said, ‘Oh, I don’t believe in science’ and that person surviving to the end of that day?” he said. “Are you kidding me? It’s mind-boggling.”