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U.S. Ends Effort to Limit Access to 'Morning-After' Pill

FDA will heed court order mandating that women, girls of all ages have over-the-counter access
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By EJ Mundell

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. government has dropped its effort to block a court order that would make the morning-after contraceptive pill available over-the-counter to all women and girls.

After fighting for an age threshold on the nonprescription use of the Plan B One-Step pill for months, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement late Monday that it would heed the ruling of Judge Edward Korman, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The drug prevents conception if taken within 72 hours of having sexual intercourse.

The Obama administration appears to have concluded that it could lose its case, and would have to weigh whether to request that the Supreme Court hear any appeal, the New York Times reported.

Women's reproductive rights groups, which had sued the government to clear the way for broader distribution of the drug were happy with the decision, the Times reported, but they still wanted to see the details of how the change would be implemented.

"We will not rest in this fight until the morning-after pill is made available without delay and obstruction," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, the newspaper reported.

"This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women's health and equity," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a news release. "The FDA's decision will make emergency contraception available on store shelves, just like condoms, and women of all ages will be able to get it quickly in order to prevent unintended pregnancy."

However, the decision is certain to anger abortion rights opponents, who oppose allowing young girls access to the drug without the consent or involvement of a parent or a doctor.

Korman first issued his order April 5, igniting a battle over whether young girls could gain access to emergency contraception without a prescription. Soon after, on April 30, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lowered to 15 the age at which people could purchase the Plan B One-Step pill over-the-counter -- two years younger than the prior age limit of 17.

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