'Morning-after' pill can be given to all ages, judge rules
A federal judge in Brooklyn has ruled that the so-called "morning-after pill" for contraception should be made available to women of all ages over the counter, without a prescription and without point-of-sale restrictions.
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman found that existing restrictions of the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services limiting access to women 17 and older were "arbitrary and capricious."
Korman said the agencies had bowed to "political pressure" from the White House, and he said there was no health risk in making it available even to girls as young as young as 10 or 11. He said the imprudence of children that young having intercourse was not part of the statutory standard for drug regulation.
"The standards are the same for aspirin and contraceptives," Korman wrote.
He ordered that his ruling should take effect in 30 days. The lawsuit over the morning-after pill - known as the Plan B contraceptive - was initiated by reproductive rights groups.
Currently, women under 17 have to have a prescription, and women older than 17 can only purchase the pill at a pharmacy with identification.
Officials at the Department of Justice and HHS in Washington had no immediate comment on whether the government would appeal.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups that had sued to overturn restrictions on the pill, lauded Korman's decision.
"Today science has finally prevailed over politics," said Nancy Northup, president of the group. "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."
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said quick and easy access to the morning-after pill was safe even for young teens, and necessary to allow girls to avoid unintended pregnancies due to ineffective contraception or unprotected sex.
"This ruling is good policy, good science and good sense," she said.
Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, JoAnn Smith, president, said her organization welcomes the ruling.
"We are very, very, very happy for women of all ages. It expands access to birth control and to the health care that women need in order to prevent unintended pregnancies," she said. "We know that teen pregnancy is higher than it should be in Nassau County, and not all teens have access to sex education courses which would provide them with the information they need.
"If you make the decision to be sexually active, you must practice safe sex and that means not only birth control, but also condoms to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. This (morning-after) pill is only a backup. Accidents do happen and this is the safety belt to make sure and to prevent unintended pregnancies."