Judge Orders Emergency Contraception Be Available to Everyone

7:26 AM, Apr 6, 2013   |    comments
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NEW YORK, NY - Due to a federal ruling, emergency contraception, like Plan B, will soon be available over the counter to anyone under the age of 17.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the medication available to people of all ages without a prescription.

The move has already caused concern among many religious groups in Western New York.

"We see this as a step back," said Cheryl Calire, director of the office of Pro-Life Activities for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. "We definitely see this as something that is not following with our church teachings and is something that we have grave concern over."

Korman gave the FDA 30 days to comply with the order, meaning teens will be able to walk into their local pharmacy or Planned Parenthood and purchase the pill by the beginning of May. Betsy Harned, director of Community Engagement for Planned Parenthood of Western New York, said this will give young people better access to health services.

"Increased access to emergency contraception means better health results for Western New York, so we're hearing great things about having this increased access," she said. "It's safe, it's reliable and it's something that's essential to have available for Western New Yorkers."

Currently, the law states that anyone 16 and younger cannot purchase the pill without a prescription.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the federal ruling says emergency contraception is "safe and effective in preventing unintended pregnancy."

"Research shows that teens and adults alike use emergency contraception the way it is intended, and that teens are no more likely than adults to misuse it," Harned said. "Research has also shown that access to emergency contraception does not change individuals' habits with respect to safe sex."

Plan B was approved by the FDA in 1999. A few years later, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the FDA to expand the use of the morning after pill to all women.

In 2006, The FDA approved the drug to be sold over the counter to women 18 and older. The FDA signaled it wanted to make emergency contraception available to all women in 2011, but was overruled by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Barring legal response, Friday's ruling ends a court battle that's been going on for more than a decade. The ruling overturns a decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius had issued an order requiring a prescription for girls under 17 years old.

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