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Over-the-Counter Morning-After Pills Only for Ages 17 and Up, Justice Department Says

(Updated) Government agrees to allow Plan B One-Step to be sold over the counter to all women.

Update (June 11): The Obama Administration has agreed to drop its case against a federal judge's ruling, allowing Plan B One-Step contraceptives to be made available without a prescription to women ages 15 and up. The action proposed by the government applies only to Plan B One-Step.

But the Los Angeles Times reports that "the limited nature of the government's proposal could be an issue for (U.S. District Judge Edward) Korman, who has ordered that all such drugs be available over the counter like aspirin. If he approves it, however, the government said it would drop its appeal of an order he issued in April."


Update (June 5): According to Reuters, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the Food and Drug Administration a partial victory in its attempt to halt over-the-counter sales of morning-after contraceptives to teenagers.

CBS News reports that the court's order "permitted two-pill versions of emergency contraception to immediately be sold without restrictions, but the court refused to allow unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step until it decides the merits of the government's appeal."


Update (May 14): USA Today reports that the Obama Administration has "filed a last-minute appeal to delay the sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill to girls of any age without a prescription."


The Obama Administration is headed to court over emergency contraception–but this time it isn't about the Affordable Care Act.

Less than one day after the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug company's application to make a morning-after pill available to women ages 15 and up, the U.S. Department of Justice has appealed a federal judge's ruling that the FDA lift all age restrictions on the drug.

In early April, a federal judge ruled that the FDA should make all emergency contraceptives available without prescriptions to women of all ages–a decision that would allow Plan B and similar birth-control pills to sit among women's health products on store shelves. The judge mandated that his ruling be implemented within 30 days, and the FDA seemed poised to comply by making the Plan B One-Step drug available to anyone 15 years or older.

However, the latest action by the Justice Department could stop the FDA from placing other morning-after pills on store shelves any time soon. The Justice Department's request for an injunction does not impact the FDA's decision to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B to 15-year olds. Instead, if successful, it would limit sales of all other, non-name-brand drugs.

The Justice Department says the federal court "exceeded its authority by specifying action regarding the one-pill Plan B One Step product and by ordering the FDA to make emergency contraception available instead of sending the issue back to the agency for reconsideration," MSNBC reports.

The appeal is consistent with the Obama Administration's position that emergency contraceptives should not be available to women younger than 17–and that's a debate that's been ongoing for years. In late 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services blocked the sale of Plan B-type drugs to women younger than 17, overruling the FDA's move to lift age restrictions. Pro-life groups consistently have opposed sales of the pill to minors, but now some question whether or not emergency contraceptives should be considered abortion-inducing drugs.

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