Emergency contraception pills will now be available to women and girls regardless of age. The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday that it would honor a court's ruling to allow unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step. That decision means the controversial morning-after pill will soon be available for purchase without a prescription.
The pill was previously only available without a prescription to women 17 and older who presented proof of age at a pharmacist's counter. Critics of the move say it will lead to sexual abuse and cause fewer women to make important visits to their doctors.
Advocates argue it is important for women of all ages to have access to the pill because it is most effective when taken within 72 hours of intercourse.
The decision "will make emergency contraception available on store shelves, just like condoms, and women of all ages will be able to get it quickly in order to prevent unintended pregnancy," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards.
The morning-after pill was approved by the FDA in 1999, but it did not reach the over-the-counter market until 2009, Yahoo News reported.
"This decision by the administration affirms what feminists have been fighting for all along — the morning-after pill should be available to females of all ages, on the shelf at any convenience store," said National Women's Liberation coordinator, Annie Tummino.
Anti-abortion advocates were critical of the move.
"We're very concerned and disappointed at the same time because what we see here is the government caving to political pressure instead of putting first the health and safety of girls [and] parental rights," said Anna Higgins, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity.