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Birth Control Health Center

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Judge Rules: Morning-After Pill for All Females

Until now, girls 16 and younger needed a prescription for the emergency contraception

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make the so-called "morning-after pill" -- an emergency contraceptive -- available to all women regardless of age.

The judge from the Eastern District of New York gave the FDA 30 days to remove age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraception, such as Plan B One-Step. Until now, girls 16 and younger needed a doctor's prescription to get the pill, which typically works if taken within 72 hours after intercourse.

Other brands of emergency contraception include Next Choice and Ella.

The judge's decision, released Friday, is the latest step in a 10-year, controversial debate about who should have access to the drug and why.

Plan B prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in a woman's uterus through use of levonorgestrel, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone used for decades in birth control pills. Plan B contains 1.5 milligrams of levonorgestrel, more than "the Pill" contains. It is considered a form of birth control, not abortion.

The Obama administration had no immediate comment on the judge's ruling.

Women's health advocates praised the decision by Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn.

"Lifting the age restrictions on over-the-counter emergency contraception is a significant and long-overdue step forward for women's health that will benefit women of all ages," Eric Blankenbaker, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement Friday.

"When a woman fears she might become pregnant after her contraceptive has failed or she has had unprotected sex, she needs fast access to emergency contraception, not delays at the pharmacy counter," he said.

Planned Parenthood called the ruling "good policy, good science, and good sense."

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health also came out in favor of the court ruling, noting it will benefit Hispanic and other immigrant women.

"For Latinas in particular, expanded access to emergency contraception is critical for making the best decisions for our families and ourselves. For too long, this important backup birth control method has been kept behind the counter and out of reach," institute spokeswoman Erin White said in a statement.

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