A federal court judge has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lift controversial restrictions on the so-called morning-after pill, saying females of all ages should have unimpeded access to emergency birth control.
In a ruling released Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman directed the FDA to make levonorgestrel-based contraceptives available over the counter, and without a prescription. The ruling overturns a 2011 decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requiring that girls under age 17 obtain a prescription for the Plan B One-Step contraceptive or its equivalents
In his strongly worded ruling, Korman called Sebelius' decision “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent.” No serious health risks have been associated with the drug’s use among adults and children, Korman wrote, and even the FDA acknowledged that the drug’s “safety and efficacy in the pediatric population have been established.”
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argued that restrictions placed on the drug imposed unreasonable delays for women of all ages. While the drugs are available to women 17 and older without a prescription, the requirements created confusion and pharmacists kept them behind counters so that they were not available outside regular business hours.