A federal judge ruled Friday that the government must make the morning-after pill, known as Plan B, available over the counter for women of all ages without a prescription.
The Food and Drug Administration had initially decided to allow the morning-after birth control pill to be available for young teens. But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA in 2011, that a prescription is required for girls under 17.
U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman said today, "The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step and that of the FDA with respect to the Citizen Petition, which it had no choice but to deny, were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable."
Friday's order came in response to a lawsuit launched by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The group was seeking to expand access to all brands of the morning-after pill over the counter, such as Plan B One-Step and Next Choice, so that women of all ages would be able to purchase them without a prescription.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine supported the decision, applauding the stance that "science should guide policy."
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards also applauded today’s decision. “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,” she said.
Yet other groups, including the Family Research Council, expressed concerns about the order.
Anna Higgins, J.D., director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, slammed today’s decision, arguing that it “places the health of young girls at risk.”
Higgins raised concerns that making Plan B available over the counter will encourage reckless sexual behavior, and could expose young girls to sexual predators.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights also disagreed with the ruling, citing what he sees as a "contempt shown for parental rights."
The morning-after pill contains a higher dose of the female progestin hormone that is in regular birth control pills. Taking it within 72 hours of contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. But it works best within the first 24 hours.
Many developed countries require a prescription for oral contraceptives, including Canada and most of Europe, but other countries sell the pill without a prescription even formally or informally.