Morning-after pill may go over the counter
WASHINGTON — The morning-after pill might become as easy to buy as aspirin.
In a scathing rebuke accusing the Obama administration of letting election-year politics trump science, a federal judge ruled on Friday that there should be no age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraception without a doctor's prescription.
Today buyers must prove at the pharmacy that they are 17 or older; everyone else must see a doctor first. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York blasted the government's decision on age limits as “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,” and ordered an end to the restrictions within 30 days.
The Justice Department was evaluating whether to appeal, and spokeswoman Allison Price said there would be a prompt decision.
President Obama had supported the 2011 decision setting age limits, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Friday that the president has not changed his position. “He believes it was the right common-sense approach to this issue,” Carney said.
If the court order stands, Plan B One-Step and its generic versions could move from behind pharmacy counters out to drugstore shelves — ending a decade-plus struggle by women's groups for easier access to these pills, which can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.
Saying the sales restrictions can make it hard for women of any age to buy the pills, Korman described the Obama administration's decision, in the year before the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, as “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent.”
Women's health specialists hailed the ruling.
“It has been clear for a long time that the medical and scientific community think this should be fully over-the-counter and is safe for women of all ages to use,” said Dr. Susan Wood, who resigned as the Food and Drug Administration's women's health chief in 2005 to protest the Bush administration's foot-dragging over Plan B.
Half the nation's pregnancies every year are unintended. Doctors groups say more access to morning-after pills — by putting them near the condoms and spermicides — could cut those numbers. They believe there is little risk of overuse, as the pills cost $40 to $50 apiece.
Social conservatives criticized the ruling.
“There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to young girls, under coercion or without their consent,” said Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council. “The involvement of parents and medical professionals acts as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today's ruling removes these common-sense protections.”
Absent an appeal or a government request for more time to prepare one, the ruling would take effect in 30 days, meaning over-the-counter sales could start then.
The morning-after pill contains a higher dose of the female progestin hormone than found in regular birth control pills. Taking it within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or just forgetting regular contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. It works best within the first 24 hours.
If a woman is pregnant, the pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Stocks end tumultuous week on down note
- Kraft shareholders approve merger with Heinz
- U.S. employers add 223K jobs, jobless rate falls to 5.3%
- Gulf states reach $18.7B settlement with BP over oil spill
- H-D Advanced Manufacturing in Franklin Park buys aerospace components maker Firstmark
- Government contests sale of GE appliance business to competitor Electrolux
- Alpha Natural Resources buys out European partner in Marcellus venture
- Halliburton to close Indiana County office
- Millionth ’Vette was destined for history
- Bank of New York Mellon seeks to intervene in N.J. casino saga as power plant taps collateral
- Heinz executives to dominate post-merger management of Kraft Heinz Co.