On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that the government must allow the morning-after pill to be sold over the counter to girls of all ages.
Federal District Court Judge Edward R. Korman’s decision goes against a decision Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, made in 2011.
Pill advocates filed a lawsuit in 2005, after the FDA struck down a Citizen Petition to make Plan B and Plan B One-Step available regardless of age. Judge Korman ruled that the FDA’s refusal to lift the age restrictions on the drug were “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.”
“More than 12 years have passed since the citizen petition was filed and 8 years since this lawsuit commenced,” Korman wrote. “The F.D.A. has engaged in intolerable delays in processing the petition. Indeed, it could accurately be described as an administrative agency filibuster.”
In the meantime, new morning-after drugs were being tested and put on the market.
“The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency’s misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the F.D.A. to engage in further delay and obstruction,” Korman ruled.
Attorneys for the FDA and Sebelius said there is not enough evidence that girls under age 17 can safely and effectively use the pill.
Both the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA declined to comment on the ruling.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended last year that oral contraceptives be sold without a prescription in order to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Medical doctors supporting that recommendation say there is no need for a doctor visit in order to obtain these drugs.