Morning-after pill age limits struck down

A federal judge ordered this month that the morning-after pill be made available over the counter for women and girls of all ages, striking down the prescription requirement for girls 16 and younger.

Judge Edward R. Korman accused the Obama administration of putting politics ahead of science, according to a New York Times story.

The judge said the administration didn’t make decisions based on scientific guidelines, and that its refusal to lift restrictions on access to the pill was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,” according to the article.

The judge also called a 2011 decision by Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary, “politically motivated and scientifically unjustified.” Sebelius publicly overruled the Food and Drug Administration, refusing to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter.

At the time, Sebelius said she was basing her decision on science because she said the manufacturer failed to study whether the drug was safe for girls as young as 11.

Scientists, including those at the Food and Drug Administration, have recommended unrestricted access for years, as have the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the Times article.

They contend that the restrictions effectively keep many adolescents and younger teenagers from being able to use a safe drug in a timely way to prevent pregnancy, which carries greater safety risks than the morning-after pill, according to the article.

The pill, Plan B One-Step, helps prevent pregnancy when taken soon after sexual intercourse.

Plan B was approved in 1999 as a prescription-only product.

President George W. Bush’s administration in 2006 allowed over-the-counter sales to women 18 and older but required a prescription for those 17 and younger.

In 2009, Judge Korman directed that the pill be made available over the counter for those 17 and older.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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