A federal judge in Brooklyn ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the “morning-after” emergency contraception pill available over-the-counter, without a prescription, to all girls, within the next month.
Currently, the only way to obtain the “morning-after” emergency contraception pill without a prescription is by point-of-sale restriction, which requires women to present identification to a pharmacist showing they are 17-years or older.
During a lawsuit filed by advocates, Judge Edward R. Korman of Federal District Court, ruled that the government’s refusal to lift restrictions on access to the pill was “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.”
Judge Korman ordered the F.D.A. to lift any age and sale restrictions on the pill, Plan B One-Step, and its generic versions, within 30 days. “More than 12 years have passed since the citizen petition was filed and 8 years since this lawsuit commenced,” the judge 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.”
He added, “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.”
The FDA approved Plan B in 1999. The key ingredient in Plan B is a synthetic hormone called levonorgestrel.
The morning after pill costs around $10 to $70 at health centers and drugstores such as Walgreens, CVS, or even Walmart.
The drug stops an egg from being released from the ovary, and may also hamper the sperm and egg from fertilizing. If there has been fertilization, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from embedding in the uterus. But if the egg has already been implanted in the uterus, the morning after pill will not work.
Emergency contraceptives are intended for use within 72 hours after sex, but are most effective if taken within 24 hours.
There are worries that girls of the youngest reproductive age might abuse the contraceptives available.
“There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to young girls, under coercion or without their consent. The involvement of parents and medical professionals act as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today’s ruling removes these commonsense protections,” Anna Higgins, director of the organization’s Center for Human Dignity, said in a statement.
“The FDA’s rules for approving drugs for over-the-counter sale are the same for aspirin as they are for contraceptives,” Korman said. “The standard for determining whether any drug should be made available over-the-counter turns solely on the ability of the consumer to understand how to use that drug safely and effectively.”
Scientists, with the backing of major medical groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, even those at the FDA, have been saying for years that Plan B is safe to sell over-the-counter.
“Today science has finally prevailed over politics,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “This landmark court decision has struck a huge blow to the deep-seated discrimination that has for too long denied women access to a full range of safe and effective birth control methods.”
Judge orders morning-after pill available without prescription
A federal judge in Brooklyn has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after birth control pill available over the counter to people of any age without a prescription.
No Morning-after Pill Available Over-counter
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