Federal Judge Orders Morning-After Pill Available Without Prescription to Girls of All Ages

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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The White House lost its bid to keep emergency contraception out of the hands of girls under age of 15 without a prescription. Three judges from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have decided to lift age restrictions on the two-pill versions of emergency contraceptives.

There are still age restrictions on Plan-B One Step, a higher-dose one-pill treatment, while the court decides if the government’s appeal has merit.

Calling it a “historic day for women’s health,” Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) President Nancy Northup said in a statement: “Finally, after more than a decade of politically motivated delays, women will no longer have to endure intrusive, onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions to get emergency contraception.”

It has long been debated whether girls should be able to obtain emergency contraceptive without their parents’ permission.

“Our reaction in general is a concern for the safety of young girls and the rights of parents,” said Anna Higgins, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity.

The drug, however, was found to be perfectly safe for girls of all ages. The Food and Drug Administration moved to lift all age restrictions on the morning-after pill, but in December 2011 Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled that decision.

“After careful consideration of the FDA summary review I have concluded that the data submitted by Teva do not conclusively establish that Plan B One-Step should be made available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age.” said Sebelius in a 2011 statement.

Teva Pharmaceuticals manufactures Plan B.

Former FDA assistant commissioner Dr. Susan Wood resigned in 2005 to protest President George W. Bush’s treatment of the drug.

“Acetaminophen can be fatal, but it’s available to everyone,” Wood said. “So why are contraceptives singled out every single time when they’re actually far safer than what’s already out there?”

Julie Rickelman, litigation director for the CRR, said the government has two weeks to appeal the 2nd Circuit Court’s ruling to either the full appeals court or the Supreme Court. If they stick with the ruling, she hopes to see the drug available without age restrictions in a month.

“What it does mean is that generic two-pill products are going to be readily available to women without age restrictions, on any drugstore shelf,” Rickelman said. “It'll be like buying Tylenol. You'll be able to go get it off the drugstore shelf, no ID, at the regular counter.”

Sources: Daily Mail, Washington Post, NY Times