In a victory for birth control access, a U.S. federal judge has ordered the Food and Drug Administration to remove the current restrictions on the morning after pill, commonly known as “Plan B.” Even though the FDA initially recommended that Plan B should be available without a prescription for women of all ages, the Obama Administration overruled that decision in 2011 to restrict access to emergency contraception for those under the age of 17. On Friday, citing the administration’s unnecessary “political interference” in the matter, Judge Edward R. Korman ordered the federal agency to reverse that decision.
Korman — a Reagan-appointed judge — determined that there’s no reason to prevent teens from purchasing Plan B over the counter, pointing out that the morning after pill is “among the safest drugs sold over the counter.” The judge also criticized HHS’s decision to overrule the FDA, explaining that “many public health experts saw as a politically-motivated effort to avoid riling religious groups and others opposed to making birth control available to girls.”
The conservative religious groups who oppose Plan B typically claim that it induces abortion, but the science proves them wrong. In fact, the morning after pill is a form of preventative contraception that is approved by doctors’ groups across the country, and expanding access to it is a proven method of reducing the abortion rate. Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of expanding young people’s access to Plan B, explaining that requiring teens under the age of 17 to obtain a prescription presents a major barrier for those adolescents that may prevent them from using it correctly.
The ongoing right-wing misinformation campaign about emergency contraception has perpetrated a stigma around Plan B that makes it even more important to ensure women of all ages can easily access it. Even Americans over the age of 17 often run into roadblocks when they attempt to legally purchase Plan B over the counter. Pharmacists often falsely tell adult women they can’t purchase emergency contraception without a prescription, or incorrectly deny Plan B to men, or simply refuse to dispense emergency contraception for their own personal reasons.
Komen’s decision will appeal to the Second Circuit, which is one of the most liberal in the country.