Policy/Biz

Federal Judge Says Some Morning-After Pills Can Be Sold Over The Counter, Hailed As 'Historic Day In Women's Health'

happy woman
Reproductive rights advocates say women have a reason to smile today, as a federal judge told the FDA to lift restrictions on the morning-after pill. Andrew Storms/Wiki Commons

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can say it won a small victory today in its ongoing battle with federal Judge Edward Korman over the availability of emergency contraception.

Judge Korman lifted part of his April 5 court order that mandated that the FDA make morning-after pills available over the counter to girls and women without age restriction. Today, in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Brooklyn, N.Y., the judge said that the FDA need not make one-pill variants of the morning-after pill available over the counter. However, he upheld his previous order to require over-the-counter access to two-pill variants, saying that the FDA did not meet the standard for a stay.

The judge's ruling, however temporary it may be, was hailed by Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup who called today "a historic day for women's health."

"Finally, after more than a decade of politically motivated delays, women will no longer have to endure intrusive, onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions to get emergency contraception," she said in a statement.

Today's ruling is part of an ongoing saga between the FDA and U.S. District Judge Korman. Judge Korman sides with women's health advocates who say that the pill should be available to women over the counter without restriction.

"Studies show that emergency contraception is a safe and effective form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of unprotected sex," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and an outspoken supporter of Korman's decision. "Research also shows that teens are as likely as adults to use emergency contraception correctly... Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science and should be eliminated."

However, the FDA believes that the judge is infringing on its territory by attempting to regulate the pill. "The public properly relies upon FDA classification of drugs as non-prescription as a reflection of the agency's judgment regarding the safety and proper use of a drug without a doctor's prescription," wrote U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch. "The public interest will not be served by reclassification of drugs as non-prescription by order of a court, without appropriate agency decision-making procedures being followed."

The FDA will be given another opportunity to appeal today's ruling. The federal court said that it would hear the appeal on an expedited basis.

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