The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

April 5, 2013

N.Y. judge makes morning-after pill available to all

— 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.

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