The US government has dropped its effort to block a court order that would
make the morning-after contraceptive pill available over-the-counter to all
women and girls.
After fighting for an age threshold on the non-prescription use of the Plan B
One-Step pill for months, the US Food and Drug Administration said in a
statement late Monday that it would heed the ruling of Judge Edward Korman, of
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The drug
prevents conception if taken within 72 hours of having sexual intercourse.
The Obama administration appears to have concluded that it could lose its
case, and would have to weigh whether to request that the Supreme Court hear any
appeal, the New York Times reported.
Women's reproductive rights groups, which had sued the government to clear
the way for broader distribution of the drug were happy with the decision, the
Times reported, but they still wanted to see the details of how the
change would be implemented.
"We will not rest in this fight until the morning-after pill is made
available without delay and obstruction," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard,
executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represented
the plaintiffs in the case, the newspaper reported.
"This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic
moment for women's health and equity," Planned Parenthood President Cecile
Richards said in a news release. "The FDA's 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
However, the decision is certain to anger abortion rights opponents, who
oppose allowing young girls access to the drug without the consent or
involvement of a parent or a doctor.
Reducing unintended pregnancies
Korman first issued his order April 5, igniting a battle over whether young
girls could gain access to emergency contraception without a prescription. Soon
after, on April 30, the US Food and Drug Administration lowered to 15 the age at
which people could purchase the Plan B One-Step pill over-the-counter - two
years younger than the prior age limit of 17.
A day later, on May 1, the Obama Administration stepped in to appeal the
At the time of the FDA's move to lower the age limit, agency commissioner Dr
Margaret Hamburg said in a news release that, "research has shown that access to
emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate
of unintended pregnancies in the United States."
"The data reviewed by the agency demonstrated that women 15 years of age and
older were able to understand how Plan B One-Step works, how to use it properly
and that it does not prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted
disease," Hamburg said.
Plan B prevents implantation of a fertilised egg in a woman's uterus through
the use of levonorgestrel, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone used for
decades in birth control pills. Plan B contains 1.5 milligrams of
levonorgestrel, more than the pill contains. It is considered a form of birth
control, not abortion.
Other brands of emergency contraception include Next Choice and Ella.
Planned Parenthood has long pushed for wider access to emergency
contraception, with Richards calling it "an important step forward."
But conservative groups have objected to the move. In April, Janice Shaw
Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for the
conservative women's group Concerned Women for America, called Korman's ruling
"a political decision, made by those who stand to profit financially from an
action that puts ideology ahead of the nation's girls and young women."
There's more on emergency contraception at the World