Judge rules Plan B must be available to all without a prescripti

Topic of the Day

Judge rules Plan B must be available to all without a prescription

Posted: Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration, a federal judge ruled Friday that age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill are "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable" and must end within 30 days.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York means consumers of any age could buy emergency contraception without a prescription - instead of women first having to prove they're 17 or older, as they do today. And it could allow Plan B One-Step to move out from behind pharmacy counters to the store counters.

The Justice Department didn't immediately say whether it would appeal the ruling.

"We are reviewing the decision and evaluating the government's options," said F. Franklin Amanat, a lawyer for the government.

It's the latest twist in a decade-long push for easier access to emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.

The Food and Drug Administration actually was preparing to lift all age limits on Plan B One-Step in late 2011 when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an unprecedented move, overruled her own scientists. Sebelius said some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children but shouldn't be able to buy the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own. President Barack Obama said he supported the decision, also citing concern for young girls.

That move shocked women's groups - and in his ruling, Korman blasted Sebelius for what he called an "obviously political" decision.

"This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds," Korman wrote, saying the number of young girls using such drugs "is likely to be minuscule."

Yet the sales restrictions are making it hard for women of all ages to buy the pills, especially young and low-income ones, he said.

Moreover, Korman noted that numerous over-the-counter drugs are dangerous for children, but are still sold nevertheless without age requirements, while "these emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over-the-counter."

"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 FDA's women's health chief in 2005 to protest Bush administration foot-dragging over Plan B.

"Having worked on this for many years, the judge really wanted to make it clear that FDA had come to a scientific determination and was once again overruled, and that is not acceptable," she added.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed suit against the age restriction, and other groups have argued that contraceptives are being held to a different and non-scientific standard than other drugs and that politics has played a role in decision-making.

"I think this is a landmark decision in terms of providing women and girls in the United States access to a safe and effective form of birth control," said attorney Andrea Costello with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

Social conservatives criticized the ruling.

"This ruling places the health of young girls at risk," said Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council. "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."

The judge said the FDA decided after 11 months, 47,000 public comments and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars spent, that it did not need rulemaking on the subject.

"The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency's misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the FDA to engage in further delay and obstruction," he wrote.

Four years ago, Korman was highly critical of the Bush administration's initial handling of the issue when he ordered the FDA to let 17-year-olds obtain the medication, instead of setting the age at 18. At the time, he accused the government of letting "political considerations, delays and implausible justifications for decision-making" cloud the approval process.

The morning-after pill contains a higher dose of the female progestin hormone that is 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. But it works best within the first 24 hours.

If a woman already is pregnant, the pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg. According to the medical definition, pregnancy doesn't begin until a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of the uterus. Still, some critics say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it may also be able to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, a contention that scientists - and Korman, in his ruling - said has been discredited.

  • Email Alert Sign Up

    Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.

    * denotes required fields


    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.

KSWT-TV Affiliates

Go to KSWT-TV's Facebook page
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Got Solar? Utility looking to place solar panels on a home near you

    Got Solar? Utility looking to place solar panels on a home near you

    Arizona's top utility company is looking to place solar panels on 3,000 homes; at no cost to the homeownerArizona Public Service announced that they plan on placing these panels on residents homes and in turn for the usage of their roofs the utility company will give them a $30 discount on their monthly bill for the next 20 years. If approved by regulators APS will spend anywhere from 50 to 70 million in project costs. This new initiative will help the utility giant meets it's mandatory alter...More >>
    Arizona's top utility company is looking to place solar panels on 3,000 homes; at no cost to the homeownerArizona Public Service announced that they plan on placing these panels on residents homes and in turn for the usage of their roofs the utility company will give them a $30 discount on their monthly bill for the next 20 years. If approved by regulators APS will spend anywhere from 50 to 70 million in project costs. This new initiative will help the utility giant meets it's mandatory alter...More >>
  • Facebook Recovering After Brief Outage

    Facebook Recovering After Brief Outage

    If you experienced issues logging ontoFacebooktoday, you're not alone. The site went down for most users around 12 p.m. ET on Friday. Users began to regain access to the site about 30 minutes later, according to various tweets.Mashablehas been able to access the site, although response time has been slower than usual. For the duration of the outage, visitors to Facebook.com were greeted with the following message: Facebook'sdeveloper webpagewent down with the site during the initial outage, b...More >>
    If you experienced issues logging ontoFacebooktoday, you're not alone. The site went down for most users around 12 p.m. ET on Friday. Users began to regain access to the site about 30 minutes later, according to various tweets.Mashablehas been able to access the site, although response time has been slower than usual. For the duration of the outage, visitors to Facebook.com were greeted with the following message: Facebook'sdeveloper webpagewent down with the site during the initial outage, b...More >>
  • Body found along trail; death called suspicious

    Body found along trail; death called suspicious

    The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office says a 43-year-old Peoria man's body has been found along a forest trail and his death is being called suspicious.More >>
    The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office says a 43-year-old Peoria man's body has been found along a forest trail and his death is being called suspicious.More >>
  • Yuma

    Transit director responds to bus rider concerns

    Transit director responds to bus rider concerns

    YUMA, AZ (13 On Your Side) - Yesterday, 13 On Your Side spoke with 72-year-old Robert Perez, who uses public transportation and isn't happy with the service he's getting. He says, "you have to wait inMore >>
    Yesterday, 13 On Your Side spoke with 72-year-old Robert Perez, who uses public transportation and isn't happy with the service he's getting.More >>
  • Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. Agrees to Accept up to $100 Million Additional Financing from Arizona Alternative Energy Center, LLC for San Luis, Arizona Tower

    Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. Agrees to Accept up to $100 Million Additional Financing from Arizona Alternative Energy Center, LLC for San Luis, Arizona Tower

    ANNAPOLIS, MD / ACCESSWIRE / July 14, 2014 / Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. (OTCQB: SWET), (the “Company”), the inventor of large Solar Wind Downdraft Tower structures capable of producing abundant,...More >>
    ANNAPOLIS, MD / ACCESSWIRE / July 14, 2014 / Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. (OTCQB: SWET), (the “Company”), the inventor of large Solar Wind Downdraft Tower structures capable of producing abundant, inexpensive...More >>
  • Father time reared his head

    Father time reared his head

    As UCLA tallied the damage from rampant flooding triggered by the rupture of a 90-year-old city water line, Los Angeles city leaders on Wednesday were once again confronted with the consequences of deferred maintenance on the city's aging infrastructure. Officials have long known that hundreds of miles of city water lines have deteriorated and need replacement, with many past the century mark. But in recent years, L.A.'s elected leaders have been unwilling to hike water rates enough to fix th...More >>
    As UCLA tallied the damage from rampant flooding triggered by the rupture of a 90-year-old city water line, Los Angeles city leaders on Wednesday were once again confronted with the consequences of deferred maintenance on the city's aging infrastructure. Officials have long known that hundreds of miles of city water lines have deteriorated and need replacement, with many past the century mark. But in recent years, L.A.'s elected leaders have been unwilling to hike water rates enough to fix th...More >>
  • Trial exposes CEO's calls, texts to Va. first lady

    Trial exposes CEO's calls, texts to Va. first lady

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:26 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:26:38 GMT
    The key witness in the corruption trial of Virginia's former governor and his wife said his association with the couple was fraught with bad decisions - but an affair with the first lady was not one of them.More >>
    Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's wife exchanged 1,200 text messages and phone calls with the CEO of a dietary supplement company in less than two years, including 52 in one day, according to evidence presented...More >>